Tomato production in Ghana is not any different from most parts of the world considering that tomato is one of those vegetables that is almost always used in every meal preparation in a home. As such farmers stand to reap a lot of gains when they engage in tomato farming especially if they do it right. The following is a breakdown of how to successfully engage in tomato farming and become a success at it.
To best understand the production of tomato in Ghana you need to start by appreciating the basics. This means that you need to get it right from the beginning. This article will look at tomato production exhaustively with the aim of helping even new farmers grow a good crop, guarantee a bumper harvest when all factors are held constant and learn how to market their produce. Follow these steps keenly and you will not get it wrong. Learn to grow tomatoes in Ghana like a professional.
History of tomato production in Ghana
Before getting into the actual growth off tomatoes which will be explained in steps, it helps to appreciate the journey that this crop has taken in the country. This can best be done by knowing the history of tomatoes growth in Ghana. Tomato farming in Ghana was a lucrative business for most farmers and was in fact considered the red cocaine back then as farmers would reap great gains for themselves and their families. Unfortunately, the scenario changed when conditions for tomato cultivation soon became unfavorable leading to major losses and in some cases attempted suicide as the once rich farmers turned bankrupt. One of the major issues affecting the tomato farmers in Ghana included a pandemic that affected all tomato growing areas in Ghana.
There arose a diseases complex that affected tomatoes. This resulted from the accumulation of general issues such as bacterial wilt, nematode build up in soils, viral diseases and bacterial diseases too. This gradually led to productivity and in some instances total loss as complete crop failure was witnessed. This situation is behind the positioning of Ghana as a country with regard to tomato consumption. It is ranked as the second most tomatoes importer in the world with 7 thousand metric tons of fresh tomatoes being brought in from neighboring countries. In addition to this, the country also imports about 27 thousand metric tons of processed tomatoes from the European market. All these are done within the duration of a month. It is ironic considering that the country was one of the major cultivators of tomatoes in the region.
Tomato farming in Ghana
While there may appear to be a challenge of tomato growing in Ghana due to factors that are beyond farmers, it is not totally lost for a dedicated farmer that wants to reap the gains of producing this crop. The secret is to do it right from the start. With smart choices and a different approach, it is possible to turn the situation around. It may be the strategy that will bring back the tomato factory in Ghana and see farmers making money from this ventures once again. This is a step by step guide that anyone brave enough to invest in tomato farming should follow if they are keen on attaining success.
1. Site selection
Any farmer looking to get maximum yields for their tomatoes should be careful when selecting the site for planting. Bear in mind that your crops need to have warm days with lots of sunshine as well as cool nights for them to perform optimally. When the temperatures are too high and the humidity levels drop then there will be minimum flower production and as a result poor fruiting which consequently affects your yields. It is important therefore that you ensure all your crops get enough warmth and water to promote good fruiting and yields. Also, search for a site that has well drained soils and the fertility is high. You may have to conduct soil tests for this.
2. Land preparation
Tomatoes require adequate land preparation for them to do well. Preparation is necessary for the tomato to be established early. It will also help with the suppressing of weeds which interfere with the optimal production of tomatoes. Cultivate the land into a fine tilt or an almost fine tilt. You need to boost the soils fertility by incorporating well decomposed poultry manure at a rate of 25 tons per hectare. Make sure that it is well mixed in the soils. Along the contours, prepare enough ridges to accommodate your tomato seedlings from the nursery. If you can build a collecting pond in the farm to collect the excess water you will be using for irrigation. You can reuse this water to save on costs.
3. Planting material selection
It is important that you only make use of seeds from trustworthy, reliable and certified companies. There are different varieties available including Jaguar, Roma, Rio Grande, Ada cocoa, Lindo, Pectomech VF. Talk to an agricultural officer to get the right advice on the best seed variety to grow in your region. You may want to consider a number of things when choosing the right seeds. Apart from your own preference, it is important to factor in the pest resistance as this will affect the cost of production. You also want to know how hardy the variety is on climatic changes as this may sometimes be out of your control. Consider tomato varieties in Ghana that will give you the highest yields but incur lower costs when it comes to production.
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4. Planting material preparation
More often than not, tomatoes seeds are rarely planted directly on the land. The have to go through a nursery bed to increase the chances of germination. Seed propagation knowledge is therefore crucial for every farmer that wants to be successful from the start. You can choose to grow your seedlings in a seedbed or use seedling trays, whichever you prefer is fine.
Before preparing the seedbed remember that you need to use a seed rate of 300 g to 450 g in one hectare.
- Your seedbeds should be at least 1.2 meters wide and a length you prefer or depending on the seedlings you want to sow.
- Level your convenient beds, have them watered adequately and then cover them.
- Use grass as your covering and burn it. Alternatively, you can cover it with plastic bags which you will use to solarize the beds as a form of soil sterilization. This should take about 5 to 8 weeks.
- Once the seedbed is ready, sow the seeds in drills that are 10 cm apart. Use well dried grass to cover. You can alternatively make use of palm fronts. Ensure that whatever you use has no seeds.
- Once the seedling emerge, remove the covering and create a shade even with a net.
- Once the seedlings form three leaves, start thinning out the malformed and weak looking seedlings by uprooting.
- You will transplant the seedlings when they have 5 leaves at week 3 or 4. Note that before you transplant the seedlings, at least 2 weeks before, you need to apply liquid fertilizer by combining NPK at a rate of 15-15-15.
- You should also start hardening the seeds a week to transplanting. You do this by reducing the amount of water. You can irrigate once if you used to do it twice. In addition to this, you need to reduce the shading gradually and leave the seedlings exposed to the sun on the last day before you transplant.
When seedlings are ready to be transplanted do it in the evening or late afternoon. The depth will vary depending on the season. If it is wet consider a 60 cm by 60 cm hole. In the dry season however, a 60 cm by 30 cm hole will be appropriate.
6. Fertilizer application
Your tomatoes need a specific nutrient supply for you to manage a yield of about 40 tons in one hectare. What this means is that you may have to boost the nutrients at different levels of growth. In total you will need to supply the following quantities of fertilizers at varied stages.
- 96 kg of Nitrogen
- 144 kg of P2O
- 68 Kg of calcium
- 24 kg of Sulphur
- 24 kg of Magnesium
- 16 kg of P205
The secret to increase your yields with fertilizer application is to ensure you apply it in a timely manner. You need to have to consider split application of NPK at a rate of 400 kg per hectare after 2 and 3 weeks of transplanting. Apply potassium nitrate at a rate of 100 kg per hectare 4 to 5 weeks after transplanting. Apply 100 kg per hectare of Sulphate of ammonia in split applications 6 to 8 weeks after transplanting.
To further enhance or improve quality of your tomato yield, consider investing in foliar sprays that are rich in boron and manganese. The right amount of fertilizers will boost vegetative growth. This means that you will realize tomato leaves benefits as they contribute to good fruiting.
7. Weed control
The earlier you start taking care of the weeds in you tomato crop the better it is for you. Weed as regularly as you can as this depends on how fast the weeds in your area grow. You can work on your weed control by spraying a pre-emergency weedcide 4 days after transplanting. Boost this regularly with shallow hoeing. This way you do not have to worry about weeds depleting the nutrients made for your crop.
8. Disease and pest control
The greatest challenge of tomato paste production in Ghana starts with failing to produce the tomato in the first place. The major hindrance to tomato production is diseases and pests which devour the crops and fruits before they can be harvested. Without proper control of this menace, it becomes impossible to be a success in the industry. The only way to guarantee tomato yield from the moment you are doing the tomato nursery to the harvesting period is to keep the pest and diseases in check. Experience has it that most farmers have lost total crops to diseases and pests. Boost your tomato production by dealing with the challenge. These will include issues such as tomato leaf problems which may be indicators of deficiency or diseases. Read on to learn about the most common problems of diseases and pests affecting tomato season in Ghana and beyond.
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You need to start by identifying the most troublesome pests that affect the tomato plant. These include aphids, thrips, mites, white flies, caterpillars, life miners and grasshoppers just to mention but a few. The best move is to control the pests immediately you notice there appearance and sometimes preventive measures are highly recommended. You need to apply insecticides as directed by agricultural experts. Also use insecticidal soaps such as the potassic soap solution which you can apply at a rate of 5 g per liter of water.
Apart from the pests, farmers need to note the most common diseases that attack their tomato crops. These come at different stages of the plant’s maturity. Knowing what to expect will prepare you for the worst and help you prepare in advance in case you need to mitigate the situation.
I. Damping off. This is a condition where seedlings are attacked on the nursery bed. You are to use copper based fungicides to control the situation. It is also preventable when you select well drained soils for your seedbed. Solarize the bed before seeding.
II. Early blight mainly occurs in the seedbed and is characterized by the tomato leaves turning yellow or brown and eventually dying off. If left untreated it can spread and destroy your tomato crop. It is advisable to use good quality seeds and if possible, plant the seeds in containers that separates them.
III. Septorial leaf spot. This disease is very deadly and difficult to control. It can occur at any stage of the crop’s growth and attacks the stem and flowers. If you notice it ,wait until harvesting period to destroy the crop by burning. In addition to this, you have to practice crop rotation.
IV. Sclerotium wilt. You will notice this disease by a characteristic in the plant drooling and after a while it wilts completely. It affects the lower part of the plant causing the said effects. To treat it, you need to practice good sanitation in your filed, rotate your crops and also apply recommended fungicides by drenching your soils before and after planting.
V. Root nematodes. This causes wilting when the nematodes feed on the roots. To control it, consider applying nematicides and using tolerant seeds. You can also apply well decomposed poultry manure to improve the soil’s conditions. Crop rotation is also very highly recommended here.
This is almost the final stage of tomato production. Once you have dealt with challenges such as tomato leaves turning white, you have fixed nutrients deficiency and have a pumper harvest at the end of the season then you need to harvest your crop. It is important that you harvest your tomatoes right or risk making losses at the very end. When you harvest will depend on the market demand. The bottom line is that the fruit must be firm and mature. If your market requires green fruits then that is what you harvest. There is also the alternative of red tomato market. You can harvest the red tomatoes if your market is nearby. You may have to sort and grade your tomatoes depending on your market. Pack them in suitable crates for the market.
10. Sales and marketing
Chances are that you will probably venture into tomato farming for the market value. For this reason, it is important to know the expected yield based on your projections on tomato production per acre. You will have to compare this figure with the actual find and decide where you will be selling your product.
It is possible to attain a 30- 40 ton per hectare yield depending on how well you adhered to the recommended production practices. With the correct practices you will also have the best fruit as the market recommends which will be firm and blemish free. If this is the case then your efforts should be profitable. While most prices are market dependent, you need to have a rough figure based on the cost of production. More often than not, you must break even. With the demand of tomatoes in Ghana, the major benefits of tomato farming for an entrepreneur will be the promised profits. You will get maximum profit with the best product as you have a say in how much you will price it. Good quality tomato will never disappoint.
The following is a screenshot of your possible cost of production which will be useful when determining markets prices. It is usually important to project your profits, break even points and losses if any. This will be useful when making your decisions to venture into this business. Consider the budget and revenues below.
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Apart from selling your products in the market as raw tomatoes, you could consider value addition. This involves venturing into making tomato powder in Ghana or becoming a partner in the tomato paste market in Ghana. This means that you should start a processing plant if it is within your financial power. Alternatively, farmers can come together and form a cooperation that will be taking in their produce. This way the farmers stand a chance of making bigger profits as no middle men are allowed to hijack the system. You can look into what consumers want the most and maximize on providing that. Whether you invest in open house tomato farming or you are more inclined to greenhouse tomato farming in Ghana, the bottom line still remains that you want to make profits.
Benefits of tomatoes
Apart from the economic value, there is more reason to plant tomatoes even for improvement of health. With these knowledge, it is possible that more farmers will take up tomato growing in Ghana as a venture and a small contribution on their part towards the food basket of their country. Here is why you should take tomatoes more frequently.
- Tomatoes are filling vegetables and are great for helping you maintain a moisturized skins and hair.
- They are rich in nutrients and supply about 20 percent of the nutrients you need in a day. It is also useful in providing overall nutrients that will help your body to function optimally.
- Tomatoes can help control your heart rate. In case you have a challenge with stroke and heart diseases then you should increase your tomato intake. Tomatoes are rich in potassium which is why it is useful for the health of the heart.
- Vitamins present in tomatoes make it useful for the health of your eye. Vitamins B complex, vitamin A, folates, thiamine and niacin. These vitamins are also useful in keeping the skin health. If you are looking forward towards having great eyesight and good skin then consider increasing your tomato intake, more reason to grow a garden.
- You will also get protection against high blood pressure and cholesterol. The amount of minerals in tomatoes coupled with the nutrients is all you need to have the right blood pressure.
- Tomatoes also help in the repairing of muscles. Tomatoes are rich in natural proteins and for this reason you can be sure that you will have the right muscles to support your health.
With all these gains one stands to get by eating tomatoes, it is only reasonable that more tomatoes should be grown and farmers should be supported as they do this. Tomato farming is indeed the real deal.