Tomato Tree Farming in Kenya – A single tree tomato grown in good fertile soil can bear more fruits than an average family can eat in 3 months. The fruits can be eaten fresh by scooping the flesh from halved pieces. For other uses, the skin must be removed which is easily done by pouring boiling water over the fruits and letting it stand for 4 minutes before peeling. The tree tomato flesh can be added to stews to make the unique flavor. The tree tomato fruits are tasty and decorative in salads making appetizing desserts.
Fresh tree tomato is frequently blended with sugar and water to make refreshing juice. The fruits should not be cut on wooden or another permeable surface as the juice will make an indelible mark. The tree tomato plants are small attractive, half woody and evergreen. The leaves are alternate and evergreen with a heart-shaped base and a pointed apex. The tree tomato plants are brittle and shallow-rooted growing to a height of 3M to 5.5M. The fruits are long-stalked and dangling, in clusters of 3 to 12 smooth, egg-shaped and pointed at both ends. The skin color may be deep purple, blood red, orange or yellow.
Tomato Tree Farming in Kenya – Ecological Requirements
Altitude:- Tomato tree grows well in altitudes of between 1,500M to 3,000M.
Temperature:- Tree tomato farming grow best where the temperature remains above 50ºF with
Soil:- Tree tomatoes require well-drained soils. The tomato tree requires fertile light soils rich in organic matter for vigorous growth. It cannot tolerate prolonged drought and therefore mulching and supplementary irrigation are beneficial.
Tomato Tree Farming in Kenya – Varieties
There are various varieties of tree tomatoes mostly distinguished by their color. They include:-
Red fruits variety:- Mostly used for fresh market fruit market due to their appealing color.
Yellow fruits variety:- These fruits have a superior flavor and hence good for preserving.
Dark-red or Black variety:- This variety is large and of higher quality.
Tree Tomato Farming in Kenya – Field Operations
Fertilizer Application:- A compound fertilizer may be applied at sowing time if necessary.
Propagation Material:- Seeds and cuttings may be used for growing tree tomato. Seeds develop into high-branched erect shrub while cuttings develop into shorter bushy plants with low lying branches. The plants from seed are not always true to type but are most likely if care is taken to extract the seed from red fruits with black seed pulp or yellow fruits with yellow seed pulp.
Spacing:- Plants cuttings can be sown directly at a spacing of 3×3M in the ground, but should not be permitted to bear the first year.
Germination:- Germination is accelerated by placing washed and dried seeds in a freezer for 24 hours before sowing. Cuttings should only be from plants that are 1 – 2 years old with a thickness of 1.5 to 2.5 cm and a length of 45 to75 cm.
Pruning;- The leaves are removed and the base cut square below a node. When the plants are about 1-1.5 meters, cut the roots on one side and lean the plants to the other, in the direction of the midday sun at about 30 to 45 degrees. This allows bearing branches to grow along the trunk rather than just at the top.
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Newly grown tree tomatoes should be pruned to a height of 90-120cm (3-4ft) . Yearly pruning thereafter is recommended to eliminate branches that have already born because fruits are produced on new growth. Pruning also aids in harvesting and if timed properly can extend the total bearing period. Maturity:- The tomato tree plants will bear fruits after 2years.
Tree Tomato Farming in Kenya – Harvesting and Storage
Harvesting:- Tree tomatoes are ready to harvest when they develop the red or yellow color. To harvest simply pull the fruits from the shrubs with a snapping motion leaving the stalk attached. Well-nourished plants can produce up to 66 kg per year.
Storage:- The fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 weeks, but temperatures below 38ºF can cause the skin to discolor.
Tree Tomato Farming in Kenya – Pests and Diseases
Tree tomatoes are generally pest resistant other than occasional attacks of green aphids and fruit flies. The principal disease affecting growing tree tomatoes is powdery mildew which may cause serious defoliation if not controlled. Other diseases during growth include potato virus, cucumber mosaic virus. Control the plants’ diseases using suitable pesticides.
They feed by piercing and sucking sap on tender shoots, especially on the lower leaf surface. The attacked shoots become stunted and the leaves are curled and twisted. As they feed, aphids excrete honeydew which favors the growth of sooty mold which affects photosynthesis.
They cause damage by inserting their stylets into leaf veins and extracting nourishment from the phloem sap. The affected plant loses its vitality resulting in yellowing, downward curling and an eventual drying of leaves.
These parasites found in the soil, and whose infestation leads to wilting of the plant. When the infested plants are pulled from the soil, the roots can found to be distorted, swollen and bearing knots or galls. These roots eventually rot causing an eventual death of the plant.
If not controlled at the early stages, these diseases cause significant yield losses.
Infection is characterized by the development of gray-white powdery growth majorly on leaves and stems, which causes them to become distorted. The plant may eventually wilt as disease severity increases.
Initial infection occurs in older leaves with concentric dark brown spots developing on the leaves. As infection advances, infected leaves turn yellow and fall off. On stems, spots without clear contours are seen. The lesions enlarge as severity increases.
This is a viral disease, and the virus is mechanically transmitted and also spread by several species of aphids in nonpersistent mode.
Tree Tomato Farming in Kenya – Maturity, Harvesting & Post- Harvest Handling
The tree grows very quickly and is able to carry fruits after 1.5 to 2 years though in some favorable conditions they carry fruits in a lesser span of time. The plant is day length-insensitive. Fruits do not mature simultaneously unless the tree has been pruned.
Tree tomatoes are ready for harvesting when they develop the red or yellow color and harvesting is achieved through simply pulling the fruits from the shrubs with a snapping motion leaving the stalk attached. The fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 weeks, but temperatures below 38°F can cause the skin to discolor.
Frequently asked questions about Tree Tomato Farming FAQs
Is there a market for farmers Tree Tomato Farming?
The market for high-quality fruits is always available. In fact by the time your first crop matures you will start to receive calls from potential buyers. Famers can also have connections with supermarkets, you can package your product nicely and deliver them to the shelves.
How Much Does a farmer have to Invest in Tree Tomato Farming?
For a small farm like the 1/8 acre, a farmer will require about Ksh40,000 to get started. For lager farming like for an acre of land for purposes of planning a farmer should have an estimate of -120,000 – Ksh80,000
How much To Expect on Grafted Tree Tomato Farming in Kenya?
The bigger the land, the better the returns. On average a single tree produces 20Kilograms of fruit per year. So using the 1-acre farm as an example and assuming only 1000 out of 1200 trees mature then we can set our realistic expectations on a minimum of Ksh1,600,000 revenue.
What are the challenges facing Tree Tomato Farming in Kenya?
- Finding good land
- Many farmers might want to do this and hence flood the market and prices may go down
- The fruits have to be watered at least once per week during the dry season