Tomato farming appears to be falling since 2000 in spite of report that the cultivation of tomatoes in Ghana is on the average three times a year. The tomato sector in Ghana has failed to reach its potential, in terms of attaining yields comparable to other countries, in terms of the ability to sustain the few processing plants and in terms of improving the livelihoods of the many households involved in tomato production and the tomato commodity chain.
In the midst of this situation, they uphold that yet other farmers in Ghana have achieved higher tomato yields, production is profitable and many farmers in Ghana continue to choose to grow tomatoes over other crops
Major Tomato Farming Seasons in Ghana
Tomato production in Ghana is not uniform and varies from production area to production area. Major tomato growing communities in Ghana are Bolgatanga in the Upper East Region, Begoro, Oda and Nsawam in the Eastern Region and Agogo, Kumawu, Akomadan in the Ashante Region also .
The rest are Derma, Techimantia, Tuobodom, Tanoboase, Amoma and Dormaa Ahenkro in the Brong Ahafo Region and the capital, Accra in the Greater Accra Region. Tomato cultivation in the year begins at Bolgatanga in the dry season. Cultivation is under irrigation. The Begoro production area follows from about the January 10 to February 10, harvesting by April.
Next is the Kumawu area, from early February to early March. Tanoboase, Amoma, Tuobodom and also Agogo have the same growing plan. They do their nursery from the mid-February to mid-March. There is only one-week interval between this growing season and that of Akomadan.
Although a few farmers in the Derma/Techimantia/Dwomo production area begin in February, the majority begin their nursery establishment from mid-March to mid-April. The Oda production areas establish their nurseries in early May, transplanting in June. The last group to get on is the Dormaa production area, where nurseries are established either in September or mainly in October.
They mostly do water their crops and do harvest their produce around January where there is severe drought. They have only one growing season in a year. With the exception of Bolgatanga where they operate fully under the irrigation and the Dormaa and Accra production areas where they most often do water their crops, all the others operate a rain-fed production system.
The minor season begins with Nsawam between late May and early June. This is followed by Accra by early June and then by Begoro by mid-June and Tuobodom by late June. By early July towards the end of the month, the Techimantia, Derma and Dwomo growing areas do their nursery.
Oda has no minor production season so do produce once in a year like Dormaa. Aside the major and minor rainy season productions as in detail described above, some areas such as Tuobodom, Derma, Dwomo and Techimantia do have a third production season during the dry season and fully irrigated. This system is locally referred to as ‘Petraa”
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Ecological Requirements
Before planting tomatoes, the following factors should be considered:-
Location for planting: –
Water proximity should be as close as possible to the planting field to avoid added costs of pumping water. Although water tanks can be used and this is specifically suitable when using drip irrigation system.
The previous crop planted: – Tomatoes should not be planted immediately after potatoes or pepper and a 3 month break should be observed. This is to minimize on risk of diseases and reduce costs on disease management.
Topology: – Gently sloping land is best as it facilitates drainage during rainy periods especially for open air method.
Soil: – The soil should be deep well drained loam. The soil should be prepared well and loosened and broken down well. The optimal pH for tomatoes is around 6-7.5. Soil analysis can also be done to determine this and help you come up with the list of required fertilizer to prepare the land. If the pH is low, lime can be used to raise it and if high, gypsum can be used to lower it.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Tomato Varieties
The following hybrid tomatoes are available in Ghana:- Roma VFN, Pectomech VF, Tropimech, Rio Grande, Jaguar, Lindo, Titao Derma, Ada Cocoa.
Pectomech variety as suitable for processing and preferred by consumers and achieving a premium price over the local varieties. In Northern Ghana reported the major tomato varieties a notable tomato growing area as Pectomech, Tropimech, and Roma. Power Rano is grown widely under rain-fed conditions and being the variety that is grown widely in Brong Ahafo Region.
Other varieties are Nimagent F1, supplied by Trusty Foods, grown under both irrigated and rain- fed conditions in the Greater Accra Region and Ada Lorry Tyre and Meenagiant all mostly grown in the Greater Accra Region under rain fed conditions.
The advantages of the above hybrid varieties compared to non-hybrid are:-
Extended Shelf life
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Nursery Preparation
The nursery is prepared by raising soil around 15cm high and leaving spaces for walkways of around 30cm or more between beds. The soil should be fine and made up of small particles. This is to make it easier for the small seeds of tomatoes to break through. The seeds should not be buried deep into the soil but planted at a depth of around 1cm.
The tomato seeds should also be covered just slightly with soil, Spacing between rows should be around 15cm, To increase moisture level, mulch is to be added on the seed bed. This also reduces splash effect during watering.
Watering is best done in the morning and the seeds are expected to start showing/sprouting in around 8days. The watering should continue until a week or two before transplanting where it is reduced to harden off the seedlings. It takes about a month before transplanting is required.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Transplanting
The nursery is watered thoroughly before transplanting for ease of uprooting the seedlings. Transplanting is done using a garden trowel. It is good practice to ensure that the roots carry a ball of soil during transplanting to increase success rate after transplanting. It should be done early in the morning or in the evening.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Planting
The seedlings are then planted in holes with spacing of around 60*45
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Fertilizer Application
Phosphate fertilizer is applied at the base for root development and urea or CAN used for leaf development after transplanting.
Urea is applied at 2-3 weeks or CAN after 5 weeks. At the start of flowering, top dress with NPK and this can be repeated after the first harvest, Remember also that fertilization is done to compensate for soil deficiency.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Watering
It is important to ensure that the plants get adequate water supply. Excessive watering is however not good for the plants as it may cause leaching of nutrients.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Tomato Support
This is done by tying a plant vertically using a string and poles. Two poles are connected using a wire and plants suspended using strings that are tied to it. This method increases productivity of tomatoes. The plants grow vertically having several fruit clusters along the stem. Support should be done early after transplanting when the plant is still young to avoid stem damage/breaking later on.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Pruning
Pruning should be carried out on side shoots, old leaves, diseased leaves and laterals. This should be done weekly to remove side shoots before they develop. Remove suckers that grow on the joint between two brunches.
These suckers will never bear fruit but only take away energy from the plant. This can also be done on the other parts of the plant but be cautious not to remove productive parts.
As the plant begins to mature, the lower leaves will naturally begin to yellow and wilt. This is perfectly normal, so pull these from the plant when they appear. It will keep the plant fresh, looking good, and help ward off disease.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Weeding
Weeding should be done regularly as weeds compete for nutrients with the plants
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Pest and Diseases
Is the larva stage of a moth that may be brown, green or pink in color? It is also the most destructive stage of the moth and attacks fruits of tomatoes. It lays several eggs on young fruits that bear holes on the fruits upon them hatching. The worm feeds with its head inside the tomato fruit.
Other minor tomato pests include: – cutworm, red spider, mite and nematodes.
Spraying the tomatoes can be the best alternative for the control measures. A good insecticide should be used in the process.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Tomato Diseases include
It is also a major fungal disease caused by phytophthora infestans, It is the most serious of the tomato diseases, Dry brown lesions on stems, leaves and fruits are some of the symptoms of attack by the crop. Fungal spores germinate when there is moisture in the leaves and fruits.
Tomato plants that are attacked by this parasite will eventually wither and die when the weather conditions of a particular place. Certified seeds are used in the control of the pest.
Blossom end rot
Manifested in the roots where the blossom ends appear rotten and water –soaked plants. Regular watering ensures that the produce does well in places with plenty supply.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Harvesting
The tomatoes should be ready for harvesting as from the 70th day onwards depending on the variety planted. Tomatoes for the wholesale market should usually be picked at the mature green to breaker stage to prevent the fruit from becoming overripe during long transportation/shipping and handling. They recommend leaving tomatoes on the vine to ripen if they can be brought to market quickly and in good condition and that, it is when market is available that tomatoes should be vine-ripe before harvesting.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Storage of fresh tomatoes
In Ghana, there is lack of storage facilities on-farm or at wholesale or retail markets and lack of ventilation and cooling in the very few existing on-farm facilities. Others include over-loading of cold stores (where available) including placing warm produce into the cold room, stacking produce too high (beyond container strength) and the practice of mixing produce with others with different temperature and relative humidity requirements.
Tomato Farming in Ghana – Marketing of Tomatoes
Six basic marketing alternatives are available to the tomato grower: wholesale markets, cooperatives, local retailers, roadside stands, pick-your-own operations, and processing firms. Marketing cooperatives generally use a daily-pooled cost and price, which spread price fluctuations over all participating producers.
Fresh and processed produce can be marketed on the farm, at the farm gate, locally or regionally via wholesale or retail operations, or through exports to other countries. When deciding how to market your fresh and processed produce, each postharvest handling step taken provides an opportunity to make additional profits.
The domestic and international marketing practices using Ghana and the United States markets as example. Also the difference in product preferences shows the degree of difficulty likely to be encountered by exporters to the American market and the need to train farmers to be able to produce for the international market. As clearly indicated, in both markets, post-harvest handling is key to quality.