The tomato is one of the seasonal moneymakers, that farmers should go for. There are mainly two seasons of tomatoes a year, however if one uses irrigation, tomatoes can be grown all year round.
The amount of tomatoes grown in Uganda is not recorded, however the country supplies countries like Southern Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda.
The most popular varieties of tomatoes at the moment are Assila, VL 642, Ranger F1, Rounder F1 and money maker. These are popular because they yield well and are resistant to wilts. These can be grown across most parts of the country, as long as the soils are loam, dark and fertile.
The seeds are packed in various sizes, from sactchets of 25-50seeds which cost sh2,000-sh5,000, 100 seeds which cost sh12,000, 1,000 seeds which cost sh43,000 and more. An acre needs around 10,000 seedings which cost around sh385,000.
However, if you are not a commercial farmer, you can squeeze seeds from the tomatoes that you use at home, dry the seeds and then plant them.
The entire cost of maintaining an acre of tomatoes from planting to harvesting is around sh5m. This includes buying appropriate pesticides at around sh1m, two weedings at sh1m, watering the crops by laborers if you do not have irrigation at sh1m and harvesting the crop through 3months
Nursery bed preparation
Potting (putting seeds in pots) is ideal for producing vigorous seedlings from the nursery. Potting materials can be got from many agri-input stores at around sh20-50 each.
-Mix one wheelbarrow of soil to another of decomposed manure. Manure can be got from livestock farmers, for example chicken droppings or dung. At the moment, a 100kg bag costs between sh10,000-sh15,000. Alternatively, you can decompose your kitchen remains, for example left over foods, for three months in a covered pit to create manure.
– Mix 50g of DAP in one wheelbarrow of decomposed, fine manure in order to enhance root establishment. A 50kg bag of DAP costs sh130,000. You need two bags per acre. Fill the mixture in pots and put one seed per pot. Seed should be one inch deep.
-Arrange the pots in order and cover them with grass. Water every morning with each seedling taking at least 30mm.
-Remove the grass after a week or upon germination. You can remove it by plucking it out using your hands.
Spray the seedlings with a mixture of 1ml of cypermethrin and 5g of mancozeb with a 1litre sprayer. It protects the seedlings from pests.
-Spraying is done once per week in order to protect the seedlings from fungal diseases and pests.
-Seedlings are ready for transplanting after three weeks.
Transplanting in the evening is ideal in order to avoid the hot temperatures of the afternoon because they may cause them to wither.
-Spacing: 90cm by 90cm without staking 75cm by75cm with staking. Staking is when small poles are placed near the plants for them to grow upwards on.
-Create furrows in rows were the seedlings are to be transplanted
-Put manure in the furrows. It can be NPK, with a tea spoon in each hole.
-Dig holes for the transplants and incorporate DAP in holes 5g per hole.
-Mix the blend with the soil in the hole. Put one seedling per hole
3days from transplanting drench the root zone of the seedlings with Fertiactyl GZ. (100mls of GZ in 20litres) 20litres cost sh150,000. Make the second application of GZ a week after the first application and top dress with 10grams of NPK at 4 weeks from transplanting. Buy fertilizers and pesticides from only certified dealers to avoid fakes.
-Make the second application after 2 weeks.
-If you have irrigation, water the crops at least three days a week, strictly in the mornings and evenings, in order to prevent water evaporation.
Harvest in three months!
Caution : Learn to day your own market research and get to know the market trends, for example it doesn’t make sense growing tomatoes at peak season when everyone is growing them, unless you have ready market otherwise you will end up in losses Arising from low prices!
Advice: Value addition is one area African farmers haven’t been keen to exploit but could be a solution to wastage, for example its common sight this month seeing lots of tomatoes rotting away on stalls and retail shops because there is more tomatoes than the market can hold.
Seek markets beyond your locality and make more money.