Tomato – Solanum Lycopersicum
The tomato is the edible fruit of Solanum , commonly known as a tomato plant, which belongs to the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The plants typically grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height and have a weak stem that often sprawls over the ground and vines over other plants. It is a perennial in its native habitat, and grown as an annual in temperate climates. An average common tomato weighs approximately 100 grams (4 oz). While tomatoes are botanically berry-type fruits, they are considered culinary vegetables, being ingredients of savory meals.
Tomatoes are also classified as determinate or indeterminate. Determinate, or bush, types bear a full crop all at once and top off at a specific height; they are often good choices for container growing. Determinate types are preferred by commercial growers who wish to harvest a whole field at one time, or home growers interested in canning. Indeterminate varieties develop into vines that never top off and continue producing until killed by frost. They are preferred by home growers and local-market farmers who want ripe fruit throughout the season. As an intermediate form, there are plants sometimes known as vigorous determinate or semi-determinate; these top off like determinates, but produce a second crop after the initial crop. The majority of heirloom tomatoes are indeterminate, although some determinate heirlooms exist.
Tomatoes need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun to bring out their best flavors. You will need to stake, trellis, or cage most tomato plants to keep them off the ground. Decide on a support plan before you set out your
Seeds in the ground May, 2017
Diseases and Problems
Tomato cultivars vary widely in their resistance to disease. Modern hybrids focus on improving disease resistance over the heirloom plants.
Various forms of mildew and blight are common tomato afflictions, which is why tomato cultivars are often marked with a combination of letters that refer to specific disease resistance. The most common letters are: LB – late blight, V – verticillium wilt, F – fusarium wilt strain I, FF – fusarium wilt strain I and II, N – nematodes, T – tobacco mosaic virus, and A – alternaria.
Some common tomato pests are stink bugs, cutworms, tomato hornworms and tobacco hornworms, aphids, cabbage loopers, whiteflies, tomato fruitworms, flea beetles, red spider mite, slugs, and Colorado potato beetles. The tomato russet mite, Aculops lycopersici, feeds on foliage and young fruit of tomato plants, causing shrivelling and necrosis of leaves, flowers, and fruit, possibly killing the plant.
A common tomato disease is tobacco mosaic virus. Handling cigarettes and other infected tobacco products can transmit the virus to tomato plants.
Another particularly dreaded disease is curly top, carried by the beet leafhopper, which interrupts the lifecycle. As the name implies, it has the symptom of making the top leaves of the plant wrinkle up and grow abnormally
After an insect attack tomato plants produce systemin, a plant peptide hormone . Systemin activates defensive mechanisms, such as the production of protease inhibitors to slow the growth of insects. The hormone was first identified in tomatoes, but similar proteins have been identified in other species since.
Although not a disease as such, irregular supplies of water can cause growing or ripening fruit to split. Besides cosmetic damage, the splits may allow decay to start, although growing fruits have some ability to heal after a split. In addition, a deformity called cat-facing can be caused by pests, temperature stress, or poor soil conditions. Affected fruit usually remains edible, but its appearance may be unsightly.
Symbols for Disease Resistance
V – Verticillium Wilt
F – Fusarium Wilt ( two F’s indicate resistance to both races 1 and 2 )
N – Nematodes
ASC – Alternaria Stem Canker
TMV – Tobacco Mosaic Virus
St – Stemphylium ( gray leaf spot )
SWV – Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus
LB – Late Blight
For propagation, the seeds need to come from a mature fruit, and be dried or fermented before germination. A fertilizer with an NPK ratio of 5-10-10 is often sold as tomato fertilizer or vegetable fertilizer, although manure and compost are also used.
Tomatoes take up nutrients best when the soil pH ranges from 6.2 to 6.8, and they need a constant supply of major and minor plant nutrients. To provide the major nutrients, mix a continuous-release fertilizer, such as Miracle-Gro Shake ‘N Feed, into the soil as you prepare the planting holes, following the rates given on the fertilizer label.
At the same time, mix in 3 to 4 inches of compost, which will provide minor nutrients and help hold moisture and fertilizer in the soil until it is needed by the plants.
Tomatoes serve, or are served by, a large variety of companion plants.
Among the most famous pairings is the tomato plant and carrots; studies supporting this relationship have produced a popular book about companion planting, Carrots Love Tomatoes.
The devastating tomato hornworm has a major predator in various parasitic wasps, whose larvae devour the hornworm, but whose adult form drinks nectar from tiny-flowered plants like umbellifers (celery, carrot or parsley family). Several species of umbellifer are therefore often grown with tomato plants, including parsley, queen anne’s lace, and occasionally dill. These also attract predatory flies that attack various tomato pests.
Plants with strong scents, like alliums (onions, chives, garlic) and mints (basil, oregano, spearmint) are thought to mask the scent of the tomato plant, making it harder for pests to locate it, or to provide an alternative landing point, reducing the odds of the pests from attacking the correct plant. These plants may also subtly impact the flavor of tomato fruit.
Ground cover plants, including mints, stabilize moisture loss around tomato plants and other solaneae, which come from very humid climates, and therefore may prevent moisture-related problems like blossom end rot.
Tap-root plants like dandelions break up dense soil and bring nutrients from down below a tomato plant’s reach, possibly benefiting their companion.
Tomato plants can protect asparagus from asparagus beetles, because they contain solanum that kills this pest, while asparagus plants (as well as marigolds) contain a chemical that repels root nematodes known to attack tomato plants.
In the wild, original state, tomatoes required cross-pollination; they were much more self-incompatible than domestic cultivars. As a floral device to reduce selfing, the pistil of wild tomatoes extends farther out of the flower than today’s cultivars. The stamens were, and remain, entirely within the closed corolla.
As tomatoes were moved from their native areas, their traditional pollinators, (probably a species of halictid bee) did not move with them. The trait of self-fertility became an advantage, and domestic cultivars of tomato have been selected to maximize this trait.
This is not the same as self-pollination, despite the common claim that tomatoes do so. That tomatoes pollinate themselves poorly without outside aid is clearly shown in greenhouse situations, where pollination must be aided by artificial wind, vibration of the plants (one brand of vibrator is a wand called an “electric bee” that is used manually), or more often today, by cultured bumblebees. The anther of a tomato flower is shaped like a hollow tube, with the pollen produced within the structure, rather than on the surface, as in most species. The pollen moves through pores in the anther, but very little pollen is shed without some kind of externally-induced motion. The best source of outside motion is a sonicating bee, such as a bumblebee, or the original wild halictid pollinator. In an outdoors setting, wind or animals usually provide sufficient motion to produce commercially viable crops.
Hydroponic and greenhouse cultivation
Tomatoes are often grown in greenhouses in cooler climates, and there are cultivars such as the British ‘Moneymaker’ and a number of cultivars grown in Siberia that are specifically bred for indoor growing. In more temperate climates, it is not uncommon to start seeds in greenhouses during the late winter for future transplant.
Greenhouse tomato production in large-acreage commercial greenhouses and owner-operator stand-alone or multiple-bay greenhouses is on the increase, providing fruit during those times of the year when field-grown fruit is not readily available. Smaller sized fruit (cherry and grape), or cluster tomatoes (fruit-on-the-vine) are the fruit of choice for the large commercial greenhouse operators while the beefsteak varieties are the choice of owner-operator growers.
Hydroponic technique is often used in hostile growing environments, as well as high-density plantings.
Picking a kind of Tomato