Issues a Top Concern
The Tomato Magazine
By D. Brent Clement
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
- Water usage, an important and emerging issue for Michigan tomato producers,
was among the key topics discussed here Dec. 9 during the Great Lakes
Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo tomato session. The session was
held at the new DeVos Place Convention Center.
Heading the list of speakers was Timothy Hartz, with the University of
California, Davis, who spoke on "California Tomato Production and
Fertigation/Irrigation." A major part of his presentation was on
the growing use of drip irrigation in California.
California producers grow approximately 35,000 acres of fresh market tomatoes
each year and 280,000 acres of processing tomatoes, Hartz said. More than
50,000 acres of that will be under drip irrigation in 2004. As overall
production costs continue to spiral, drip irrigation is rapidly becoming
the way to irrigate.
Setup costs for total systems typically run between $400 and $1,000 per
acre, he explained. But once the initial system is in place, drip tape
runs only $120 to $250 per acre and has a life expectancy of three to
six years. Other drip system components last much longer.
The Promise of
The major advantage of a drip system is the promise of increased yields,
typically 10 to 30 percent, he said. With the cost of water becoming more
and more expensive, drip systems are now much more competitive than they
once were, he said.
Hartz also talked on nutrient management in California tomato fields.
With phosphorus (P), the "crunch time" is early growth, he said.
Under most conditions, preplant banding or liquid starters are the two
best choices. Drip fertigation should seldom be necessary. Soil tests
are useful and should be followed.
When considering nitrogen management strategies, remember tomato plants
are effective nitrogen (N) scavengers, he said. In dozens of California
field trials, tomato yields generally maximize at seasonal N rates of
less than 150 lb/acre. Fertigation is considered the most efficient application
technique. The fertigation rate should reflect the crop growth rate. The
N source is "of little importance in most field conditions,"
Tomatoes have a high potassium (K) requirement, both for fruit yield and
color, the researcher said. Soil test and variety selection are crucial
in determining K fertilization rates. Where K is required, fertigation
is the most efficient technique. K uptake peaks during fruit bulking;
so should fertigation.
"Crop fertilizer needs can be anticipated and delivered efficiently,
Hartz promised, warning, however, that growers should understand the limitations
of nutrient monitoring.
In a presentation entitled, "Strategies to Improve Fruit Quality
in Fresh Market Tomatoes," Michigan researcher Sieglinde Snapp warned
that a slow and consistent nutrient supply is fundamental to improving
tomato fruit quality. While fertigation helps, it is important to guard
against large fluctuations in nutrients, she said.
Snapp suggested several things to do to help ensure that a tomato crop
receives "a slow and consistent nutrient supply."
"One is the use of amendments to build the organic nutrient 'slow
release' pool," she said. "Organic inputs can be combined with
conventional fertigation, or used instead."
One of the most effective amendments currently being used in Michigan
tomato fields is a combination of moderate amounts of compost (2,000 to
5,000 lb/acre of a high quality compost from poultry manure or swine)
with a cover crop, Snapp said. Such compounds must be incorporated well
in advance, at least one to six months, before beds are prepared and tomato
plants are transplanted. Cover crop residues, combined with compost, will
generally improve nutrient release and supply to the fast growing tomato
"Recent experiments we conducted in southwest Michigan indicate that
improved potassium fertility may be a key component to good nutrition
- to support high quality, marketable fresh tomato yields," the researcher
said. "Field experiments carried out in 2002 and 2003 found that
increasing late fertigation to a 1N:3K fertilizer regime (instead of 1N:1K
or 1N:2K) and application of boron foliar sprays (0.2 lb/acre of boron)
improved yields and quality. Late season calcium foliar sprays were also
beneficial in some cases, but not all. There was a modest reduction in
shoulder check quality defects associated with calcium, boron or a combined
calcium plus boron foliar spray.
"Nutrition is the foundation of improving fruit appearance but there
are other cultural practices to consider," warned Snapp. "Following
recommended pruning practices will enhance air circulation and promote
uniform growth. A much more expensive but effective means to optimize
fresh market tomato fruit quality is to erect 'micro' high tunnels that
protect fruit from rain splash and provide some frost protection."
Colored Mulch Question
Focusing his presentation on "Colored Plastic Mulch and Tomato Production,"
Mathieu Ngouajio, also from MSU, said his studies show mulches vary greatly
in their ability to increase soil temperature.
"Black and IRT-green had the greatest heat unit accumulation (1,160
degree days [dd] during June," he said. "These were followed
by the IRT-Brown (1,125 dd), gray (1,050 dd), white/black (950 dd) and
white (875 dd). Only 740 dd were obtained with air temperature. Limited
heat unit accumulated with air temperature indicates that under Michigan
conditions, use of plastic mulch may be justified especially early in
the season when soil temperature is usually low. Both IRT films used showed
potential to increase early season soil temperature. However, their effect
was only equivalent or slightly lower than standard black mulch."
Tomato marketable yield was separated into early and total yield, the
researcher explained. Early yield was the first harvest in 2001 and the
first two harvests in 2002. In both years, black and white mulches had
consistently greater early yields.
Early yield was variable between years for the other mulches, Ngouajio
reported. Mulch had no effect on total marketable yield. However, the
IRT-Green mulch increased No. 1 yields both years.
The researcher believes that yield increase of No. 1 fruit with the IRT-Green
mulch may increase total revenues. However, studies need to be conducted
to determine if the greater yield of No. 1 fruit is high enough to justify
the extra cost of using IRT-Green mulch over the traditional black mulch,
Tomato Insect Review
Focusing on tomato insects, MSU researcher Walter Pett noted there are
more than 10 million insect species in the world. Those threatening tomato
crops include thrips, aphids, Colorado potato beetle, wireworms, cutworms,
cabbage loopers, hornworms, flea beetle, fruit worms and mites.
The major concern with thrips is they can transmit the Tomato Spotted
Wilt Virus in greenhouses, Pett said.
Several kinds of aphids can cause problems, he added. Among those are
the green peach, potato, buckthorn and foxglove aphids. The insects multiply
rapidly. Within a six-month period there can be up to 12 generations.
That translates into the billions, but on the positive side, aphids have
many natural enemies - parasitic wasps, lace wings, lady beetles, syrphid
flies and others. Efforts to preserve these natural predators, at risk
from the overuse of pyrethroid chemical controls, must be taken.
Pett showed pictures of various insects of interest to the tomato industry
and explained their reproduction habits and methods of control.
© 2004 Columbia
Bromide Replacement - No Silver Bullet Available Yet
The Tomato Magazine
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.
- While researchers continue to look for effective alternatives to methyl
bromide for fumigating tomato and peppers, there is no exciting news.
That was the word from Dr. Doug Sanders, a researcher from North Carolina
State University, who spoke during the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and
Farm Market Expo pepper session. His presentation took place Dec. 9 at
the new DeVos Place Convention Center in Grand Rapids.
Sanders was among four speakers participating in the pepper session. Others
were Jack Aronson of Garden Fresh Gourmet in Ferndale, Mich.; Timothy
Hartz, a researcher with the University of California, Davis; and Beth
Bishop, a Michigan State University researcher.
In his research aimed at coming up with a useful alternative to methyl
bromide, Sanders said he has been looking at various composts, including
a controlled microbial mixture. It is composed of 30 percent dairy manure,
30 percent waste hay, 30 percent waste silage, five percent finished compost
and five percent clay soil, he said.
A second alternative studied was a reactor-treated compost composed of
de-watered swine waste, biofumigant crops (brassicas, sun hemp, velvet
bean) and aerobic and spent mushroom composts.
While all have merit, nothing yet matches the effectiveness of methyl
bromide fumigation, Sander said. Telone C-35 and napropamide (2 # ai)
are currently the best options and yielded more fruit than all other treatments.
Telone C-35 yielded more than Vapam.
Telone C-35 and metham sodium have exhibited inconsistent results in various
trials, he cautioned.
"Regardless of the fumigant alternative, weed management will be
critical in the post methyl bromide era," Sanders emphasized. Methyl
iodide is an alternative but is cost-prohibitive at this time.
Pepper Supplies Needed
"What Local Processors Need from Local Producers" was the topic
of a presentation by Jack Aronson of Garden Fresh Gourmet. He informed
Michigan vegetable producers that his company is eager to use more locally
The company markets an all natural salsa mix that has been growing in
popularity. "Business has been doubling every year, and the prospects
for the future are bright," the speaker said.
In the past, Garden Fresh Gourmet has ordered onions from Vidalia, Ga.,
and jalapeno peppers from Texas and Mexico. It has had a difficult time
coming up with an adequate supply of habanero peppers. Other than tomatoes,
salantros peppers are the largest single cost item in the company's salsa
formula. The company markets an "all natural" product and does
not use preservatives.
Joining Aronson in his presentation was Willard Snackford, who does all
of the produce purchasing for the company. He said the two have been frustrated
by having to pay higher than reasonable prices when local produce is out
of season. He invited local growers to contact him at (248) 336-8486 if
they wish to become a company supplier.
"We buy fresh every day, 365 days a year," Snackford said. "We're
serious about the quality of our salsa, and we need a constant supply.
"We've doubled our sales two years in a row now and expect to double
them again in 2004."
Timothy Hartz, who also addressed the tomato session, gave a similar report
during the pepper session. He traced the growing popularity of drip irrigation
in California tomato and pepper fields. Yield increases of 20 to 30 percent
are commonly reported.
In his address, "Pepper Irrigation and Nutrient Management,"
Hartz gave a detailed explanation of what's involved in terms of cost
and management expertise in employing a drip system. (See the tomato session
report in this issue for more specifics.)
Concerning nutrient management, the speaker stressed the use of soil testing,
as fertilizer needs can vary from field to field and within specific areas
of a given field. "Crunch time" is early growth, he said, advising
pepper growers to preplant ban or use a liquid "starter" fertilizer.
"Drip fertigation should seldom be necessary," he said.
In field trials in California and Florida, pepper yield and quality usually
maximized at season nitrogen rates of less than 200 pounds per acre, he
said. Fertigation is the most efficient application technique, but the
fertigation rate should reflect the crop growth rate. The nitrogen source
is of little importance under most field conditions. Once a week fertigation
is generally sufficient.
Peppers have a moderate potassium requirement. Field testing shows that
less than 150 parts per million have minimal potassium requirements. Where
potassium is required, fertigation is the most efficient technique. Potassium
uptake peaks during fruit bulking; so should fertigation, Hartz recommended.
Excessive fertilization can be problematic, both agronomically and environmentally,
the scientist warned. In-season nutrient monitoring can be useful, but
has important limitations.
Major Pepper Pests
In her presentation, "What's Eating Your Peppers?" Beth Bishop
noted that the most significant insect pests of peppers in Michigan are
aphids (especially green peach aphid) and European corn borers. Both insects
feed on many different crops and weeds and overwinter in Michigan, she
"Aphids damage peppers by spreading plant viruses, by excreting honeydew
that contaminates fruit (and causes the growth of sooty mold), and by
feeding on foliage producing stunting and deformation," Bishop explained.
"Green peach aphids overwinter as eggs on trees. In the spring the
eggs hatch and females give birth to live young. Eventually some adults
develop wings and fly to new fields, where they land, feed and may settle
in and give birth. During the growing season, under conditions of stress,
such as overcrowding, plant senescence, etc., winged adults may develop
and disperse to other fields.
"Aphids on peppers are usually kept under control by predators, parasites
and diseases," she continued.
"These natural enemies prevent populations from building to damaging
levels. Although aphids can transmit viruses, such transmission occurs
within a matter of seconds - too fast for any insecticide to prevent it.
There is little a grower can do to prevent virus transmission except for
removing infected plants and crop debris, and keeping the area surrounding
the field weed free. Insecticides applied for European corn borer control
usually help control aphids, unless over-application of pyrethroid insecticides
kills natural enemies. The crop is most vulnerable to aphid damage when
fruit is present, and additional insecticide application to control aphids
may be warranted at this point to prevent cosmetic damage to fruit."
European Corn Borer
European corn borers overwinter as mature larvae in plant stems, Bishop
said, adding that in the spring, they complete development, merge as moths,
mate and lay eggs (usually on corn). Subsequent generations (there are
two and sometimes three generations per year in most of the Midwest) develop
in mid to late July and early fall. Other crops (peppers, snap beans,
apples, etc.) are often targets of the later generations.
"If insecticidal control of European corn borer is needed, knowing
when to apply the insecticide is crucial," the researcher warned.
"European corn borer goes through several population cycles each
year, with peaks of egg laying. After the eggs hatch, there is a one-
to three-day window that the larvae are vulnerable to insecticides; once
they bore into the fruit or stem they are protected from most insecticides."
Orthlene (acephate) is the most effective corn borer insecticide in peppers,
Bishop said, but there is a limit of two applications per year. These
applications should be targeted toward peak egg hatching.
"Besides insecticides, cultural methods can help reduce European
corn borer problems," Bishop explained. "heavy rainfall or regular
irrigation increase mortality in young larvae. Nearby cornfields, which
serve as a source of moths, and by all weedy areas surrounding the field
(which serve as breeding sites) can increase problems in peppers, especially
when the corn begins to senesce. Chopping crop debris or plowing it under
in the fall can decrease European corn borer problems the following year
by killing overwintering larvae."
© 2004 Columbia
Management of Fresh Market, Field-grown Tomatoes, Part 2
The Tomato Magazine
By Stephen Reiners
(repeat jpeg from last issue)
How you are growing tomatoes (staked or ground culture) and your market
(shipping or direct market; wholesale or retail) determines the type of
tomato to grow. There are three tomato growth habits: determinate, indeterminate
and semi-determinate. Determinate types are relatively small, often referred
to as bushy or compact. Each short branch ends in a flower cluster and
the plant does most of its growing before any fruit are set. The tomatoes
tend to ripen at once, usually over a short two- to three-week period.
After most of the tomatoes are harvested the plant yellows and additional
production is limited. If grown upright, the plants are seldom more than
two to three feet tall. Some examples of this type include Pik-Red and
Pilgrim. In general, many of the earliest varieties are determinate types.
Contrast the growth habit to indeterminate types. These are the traditional,
large home garden varieties. They produce plants as large as you will
allow them to grow. They have many widely spaced branches, numerous suckers
and produce tomatoes all season long. These are the varieties that can
be manipulated in all sorts of fashion to make the plants conform to your
needs. Examples of this type of growth habit include Empire, Jet Star
and most of the heirloom varieties.
In between these two are the semi-determinate types and are probably the
most widely grown commercially. They will produce suckers like indeterminate
types but not as many, and the plant will grow between three and five
feet. Examples of semi-determinate types include Celebrity and Mountain
Pruning a plant will result in larger fruit, fewer culls and overall higher
quality. The total number of fruit may be lower so place the plants closer
together. Indeterminate varieties will have many suckers and branches,
each producing many flowers and eventually fruit. These can be pruned
and pruned severely. Determinate types, however, are pruned slightly if
at all. Any pruning done on a determinate removes a finite number of blossoms
and fruit. If you prune all the suckers on a determinate type you will
have a small plant, few fruit and lots of sunscald due to a lack of foliage
and shading. You will also dramatically reduce your yield. Semi-determinate
types can be pruned but not nearly as much as indeterminates.
There are two ways to grow tomato plants, upright and support (stakes,
cages, etc.) or sprawled on the ground. There are advantages to an upright
growth habit. An upright plant will use sunlight more effectively since
there is less shading of leaves. An upright plant dries off more quickly
following rain or morning dew. This lessens disease problems since wet
foliage is a breeding ground for all kinds of fruit and leaf diseases.
In addition, some diseases like anthracnose and buckeye rot lie in the
soil waiting to infect fruit sitting on the ground. Growing the plants
upright will eliminate these rots as well as lessen problems with slugs,
mice and other pests, both large and small. Finally, fruit are easy to
see and pick. No more wasting time searching under the foliage for ripe
fruit and potentially breaking branches off the plant as you search.
Studies conducted in New Jersey in 1993 and 1994 confirm what was already
suspected. Growing plants off the ground lessens disease problems. Foliar
diseases were less on staked tomatoes, and postharvest rots averaged about
10 percent on staked plants and more than 30 percent on ground-cultured
plants. Why the difference? Better air circulation and fungicide coverage
on the staked fruit may be the reason. By the way, yields averaged 20
tons per acre for ground culture and 24 tons for stakes. Staked tomatoes
were also bigger!
There are, of course, disadvantages with any method. First, whether you
cage, stake or trellis, it will require more work (and more expense than
simply planting the tomatoes and letting them grow unsupported. Since
more sunlight is getting into the plant, you also run the risk of having
more problems with sunscald. This occurs when fruit is exposed to the
sun for long periods of time. The side receiving the light heats up, eventually
yellows, and the fruit fails to ripen normally.
Florida Weave Method
The method used by more and more growers around the country is called
the Florida weave method. Plants are placed on four- to six-inch raised
beds, covered with plastic mulch and spaced no more than 18 inches apart
in the row (tomatoes grown on stakes should be planted closer than ground-cultured
plants). A stake is placed at every other plant, spaced evenly between
the two plants. Use a sturdy stake, at least one inch square, four to
six feet tall, depending on the variety you grow. Drive the stake into
the soil using a compressed air hammer that can run off the tractor PTO
or build a stake driving tool. Get a two-foot length of galvanized pipe,
wide enough to fit around a stake. Screw on a cap on one end. Put the
pipe over a stake, lift it up and let it fall. After about six blows with
the stake driving tool, the stake will be in the ground.
The plants will need to be "strung" for the first time when
they are about 10 inches tall. Make sure you get to them before they flop
over. For stringing, use lightweight, thin, plastic twine. Plastic works
much better than jute or cotton string which has a tendency to stretch
or break. Use a five-pound box of string that can be attached to your
belt. To make tying convenient, a homemade stringing tool can be made.
The tool will work as an extension of your arm which limits the amount
of bending you will need to do. Take an old broom handle or a shortened
tomato stake about two feet long and drill two holes once inch from each
end. The holes must be wide enough to allow the string to be fed through.
Attach the box or string to your belt and thread the twine through both
holes. Tie the end of the string to the first stake, about 10 inches above
ground level. You are now ready to do the Florida weave.
Use the stringing tool to pass string along the near side of the first
tomato plant and the far side of the second. As you get to the second
stake, wrap the string tightly around the stake and continue down the
row in the same fashion. When you reach the last stake in the row, work
your way back down the row in a similar fashion. Between each stake, the
twine should be in the shape of a figure eight so that each plant is held
firmly in place. When you get back to where you began, tie the rope on
the first stake and you are done, at least for the next couple of weeks.
Repeat the procedure as the plants grow, placing strings about every 10
inches. You do not need to make the figure eight around each plant for
the other strings. Simply run the string down one side of the plants and
up the other side when you return. That will leave you with about four
to five strings and a row of very sturdy tomato transplants.
If you use the Florida weave method, you will need to prune the plants.
Research has shown that the best time to remove suckers is when they are
about three to four inches long. When the plant is eight to 10 inches
high, look carefully and observe the first flower cluster on the stem.
Remove all the suckers below the flower cluster except for the one immediately
below the cluster. You may have to go back and give these a second pruning
seven to 10 days later. Remove no more than that or you run the risk of
pruning too much. The amount of pruning to produce optimum yields varies.
Some varieties would do better if you left two suckers below the flower
cluster. Experiment and see which works best for the variety you are growing.
Editor's note: This is Part 2 of a presentation made by Stephen
Reiners at the 2002 New York State Vegetable Conference in Liverpool,
N.Y. Reiners is an associate professor, Department of Horticultural Sciences,
NYSAES, Cornell University, Geneva, N.Y.
© 2004 Columbia
Hot House Foods, Inc.
Helping Build Marketing Muscle
The Tomato Magazine
By Brent Clement
SURREY, BC - Strategic marketing alliances or marketing agreements that
ensure a year-round supply of tomatoes, peppers and other commodities
to its retail customers are making a big difference for BC Hot House Foods,
The Surrey, B.C. company signed an agreement with Agros SA de CV last
October, for example, bringing together two of the industry's premium
producers of greenhouse grown beefsteak tomatoes.
The alliance is an example of the year-round, critical mass greenhouse
program that David Smith, chief executive officer of BC Hot House Foods
has championed since taking office in August 2002. Located in Quaretaro,
Mexico, 250 km northwest of Mexico City, Agros furnishes BC Hot House's
winter beefsteak tomato supplies.
Agros' growing season, which runs from August to April, complements the
annual production gap that BC Hot House experiences every off-season.
The agreement supplies BC Hot House with a portion of Agros' beefsteak
output. The product is packed into a standard 15-lb. carton and sold under
the Agros label, with Mexico listed as the country of origin.
BC Hot House is also doing business with Malena Quality Produce, Inc.,
a Mexican pepper production operation. It is located in Coliacan and Los
Mochis in the state of Sinaloa. Malena maintains a distribution center
in Nogalas, Ariz.
In the United States, BC Hot House partners with Village Farms, headquartered
in Eaton Town, N.J. Most of the company's produce is grown in Texas, but
it also has production in Mexico.
"Village Farms' distribution and production fit us perfectly,"
says Dawn Gray, BC Hot House vice president of marketing. "Its fields
are in production when ours are either very low or nonexistent. Likewise,
when the Village Farms' season ends, ours is just getting under way."
Another advantage is the Village Farms' market is more focused on the
East Coast, Gray notes. Although it has distribution centers in Seattle,
Wash., Modesto, Calif., and Atlanta, Ga., BC Hot House's strongest markets,
because of proximity, are on the West Coast. The business arrangement
with Village Farms provides "great synergy."
In the summer time, when BC Hothouse is in full production with its beefsteak
and large tomatoes on the vine (TOV), it also packs and ships product
under the Village Farms' label, she explains. Likewise, during Village
Farms' peak season, it reciprocates, and its products are sold under the
BC Hot House label. PLU stickers are used to declare the country of origin,
Canada or the U.S., whatever the case.
A World Leader
BC Hot House is a world leader in hydroponically grown produce. Founded
in 1973 as the Western Greenhouse Growers Co-op, it was incorporated in
1997 under the BC Hot House Foods Inc. title. Owned by 47 grower-shareholders,
the company offers its customers a full product line of hydroponically
grown tomatoes - beefsteak, TOVs and specialty tomatoes on the vine (cherry,
roma, cocktail, yellow, orange and mini plum). It also markets sweet bell
peppers, sweet baby bell peppers, long English cucumbers and three entries
under the Taste Buddies'® label: mini cucumbers, mini bell peppers
and mini romas on the vine (the newest of the three to hit the market).
BC Hot House has approximately 450 acres under glass. The company ships
12.5 to 13 million cases of produce each year, 61 percent of that to U.S.
customers. Total tomato sales (beefsteak, large TOV and cocktail TOV)
this year are expected to be in the range of $106 million (Canadian).
The company markets most of the balance of its produce at home in Canada.
A small, but growing, percentage is sold overseas to various Asian markets.
In the Pacific Northwest, where BC Hot House tomatoes and other produce
are widely distributed, the company label enjoys wide consumer recognition.
Tests show 29 percent aided recall in the Pacific Northwest (Portland,
Seattle and Vancouver), "quite favorable and impressive for the produce
industry," according to Gray, especially since the company has not
been advertising. Production has been increasing but at a steady, controlled
pace. The company operates under a federal marketing order and is limited
in how many acres it can grow.
While there continues to be a steady stream of customers loyal to beefsteak
tomato varieties, demand for the large TOV segment is definitely growing,
Gray notes. Large TOVs are no longer a specialty item but have become
a staple within the tomato category.
"We've seen a tremendous increase in demand," Gray says. "Consequently,
we've adjusted our supply side to match growing demand. Sixty to 65 percent
of what we sell now is large TOVs and 30 to 45 percent are beefsteak."
Consumers definitely perceive large TOVs as an improved choice, she adds.
Part of the reason is the way the product is presented, still on the vine.
It conveys freshness.
"Here, we are essentially fooling the tomato to think that it is
still on the vine," she smiles. "The shelf life extension is
very real, and consumers quickly verify that for themselves."
Eying Increased Foodservice
While most sales today are to retail customers, the company is gearing
up to do more foodservice business. Kirk Homenick, who oversees business
development in that area, sees a significant opportunity with white tablecloth
restaurants, where produce taste, texture and appearance are all important.
"We're also looking at the quick casual segment," he adds. "These
are restaurants catering to on-the-go customers who want a quick meal
but are looking for healthier alternatives. Baja Fresh is an example."
Most foodservice customers are space-challenged, Homenick notes. They
do not have room to store large retail-sized boxes of produce. Hence,
BC Hot House has been downsizing its retail pack size to fit the bill.
Smaller package sizing also helps its customers to better guarantee fresher
"In general, we're offering our foodservice customers far superior
varieties to those grown in the field," he says. "There is reduced
need for peeling, cutting and preparation. Our bell peppers, for example,
have thicker walls and are easier to handle."
Strong Research Program
Research remains very important to BC Hot House management. This begins
with its key seed supplier, located in Holland, which has an extensive
developmental program. BC Hot House also conducts its own trials in British
Columbia to make sure that varieties selected will work under local environmental
conditions. BC Hot House buys its supplies from Holland mainly because
growing conditions there are similar to British Columbia.
"It's like the search for the Holy Grail," Gray jokes. "Our
goal is to find a tomato that can deliver on taste, color, firmness and
shelf life issues. The taste must be spectacular, the color a bright red,
the fruit solid and firm and the product must have extended shelf life."
New this year is an experiment with 12 to 17 heirloom tomato varieties,
according Homenick. BC Hot House is using its advanced production technologies
to grow heirlooms under a hothouse environment.
"We're responding to requests for heirloom varieties from our retail
customers," Homenick explains. "We're very excited about this
move. It's something new and way outside of the box, but we've always
taken pride in being innovative within the industry and trying out new
things. Our heirloom production is set this year, but if demand is there
for certain varieties in the mix, we will quickly adapt and boost production
in that direction in 2005."
Homenick and Gray also have high hopes for the company's new mini roma
on the vine product being sold under the Taste Buddies® line. The
mini roma on-the-vine is an older tomato variety acclaimed for its taste
and texture but which, for one reason or another, found itself lost in
the shuffle. It has a mini Roma shape.
"The entire product line is miniature in comparison to traditional
varieties and has great eye appeal on grocery store shelves as well as
on the plate," points out Homenick. "These products tend to
jump out at you. Their taste profile is also different - a bit sweeter
and a lot more fun to use. The Taste Buddies® line has an identity
of its own."
Goal is to target families, many of whom are looking for fun ways to increase
their vegetable intake, he says.
"You can't turn on the TV or radio or pick up a newspaper today without
hearing or reading about the need to develop healthier eating habits,"
adds Gray, "particularly the younger generation. These Taste Buddies®
entries are a healthy fun, easy-to-use portable snack. And with today's
society, our common test here is whether a product can pass the dashboard
test. If you can't eat it in your car, people are not inclined to purchase
them in the store."
For more information on the BC Hot House program, contact Gray at firstname.lastname@example.org
or Homenick at email@example.com.
© 2004 Columbia
Empire State Conference Report
The Tomato Magazine
for Tomato and Pepper Growers
How can you maximize
the quality of your tomato and pepper crops?
Dr. William J. Lamont, Jr., of Pennsylvania State University provided
Eastern growers with a number of proven recommendations during this year's
2004 Empire State Fruit & Vegetable Conference. The tomato and pepper
session was held Feb. 11 in Rochester, N.Y.
A professor and Extension vegetable specialist, Lamont was one of four
speakers participating in the session. Others were: Eric H. Simonne, an
Extension specialist at the UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences Department
in Gainsville, Fla., and Chris D. Smart and Thomas A. Zitter, both with
Cornell University. Smart is an assistant professor, Department of Plant
Pathology, at the NYSAES in Geneva; Zitter is a professor at the Department
of Plant Pathology in Ithaca.
For the production of high quality tomatoes and peppers, the use of raised
beds, plastic mulch, drip irrigation and row covers help insure successful
and consistent marketable yields, Lamont said.
The use of plasticulture has a number of benefits, he added. It warms
soil temperature eight to 12 degrees over bare soil; maintains or increases
soil water holding capacity; reduces or eliminates weeds; maintains or
increases soil tilth, and reduces or eliminates fertilizer and pesticide
leaching under the bed.
Lamont then discussed the individual components of plasticulture, including
raised beds, plastic mulch, row covers, low tunnels and high tunnels.
The researcher wrapped up his presentation on the use of plasticulture
with the following tips for successful pepper and tomato production:
1. Use raised plastic covered beds (4 to 6 inches high) in the field compared
to flat beds. This insures better warming of the soil and water and nutrient
management in the field.
2. When laying plastic in the field, make sure your soil's water-holding
capacity is at least 85 percent.
3. Wait at least two to three days after laying plastic mulch in the field
before transplanting pepper/tomato plants through the plastic. This allows
for increased soil temperatures.
4. Consider the use of a labeled herbicide broadcast over the field prior
to raising beds and laying plastic mulch if the field you are using to
plant tomatoes/peppers has a history of extremely high annual weed pressure
5. Use actively growing, insect-free pepper transplants that are between
six and 10 weeks old from seeding for peppers and five to seven weeks
6. After transplanting pepper/tomato plants through plastic mulch, monitor
the soil moisture level underneath the plastic mulch with a tensiometer
and maintain the moisture level by use of a drip irrigation system.
7. Monitor tomato/pepper plants for aphid and whitefly populations since
they can rapidly reproduce and vector viruses to young pepper/tomato transplants
and reduce total marketable fruit yield.
8. Remove the row cover or mulch from your low tunnel when flowers appear
on the crown set of the pepper/tomato plants.
9. Fertigate with low levels of nitrogen (5 to 7 lbs/A) throughout the
10. Apply boron at the rate of 1 lbs/A at the pre-bloom state either through
the drip irrigation system or as a tank-mix with fungicide spray.
11. To improve fruit quality, reduce the water application to your pepper/tomato
crop within two weeks of the bulk harvest of fruit in the field.
University of Florida researcher Eric Simonne made two presentations,
one on the use of fresh petiole SAP testing to help determine the N and
K status of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants and the second on principles
of nutrient and water management for optimizing tomato, pepper and eggplant
"Efficient fertilizer management for fast-growing vegetables such
as tomatoes, peppers and eggplants is important to help assure early yield,
reduce production costs and minimize adverse impacts on the environment,"
Simonne told the group. "Because that up to $6,000 may be invested
in one acre when these crops are grown with plasticulture, a yield reduction
caused by inadequate fertilizer management will result in significant
economical losses. Productivity, environmental and profitability goals
can be achieved together when a sound fertilization management plan has
been designed and is followed."
Simonne reminded growers of the components of a fertilizer management
plan: (1) soil testing and understanding the recommendations; (2) liming;
(3) applying preplant fertilizer; (4) developing a fertigation schedule;
(5) using foliar fertilization, if necessary; and (6) assessing the efficacy
of the fertilizer program through fresh petiole analysis or tissue testing.
"Some growers still believe that soil testing is a substitute for
tissue testing," he said, warning that such misconceptions "need
to be corrected."
"Soil testing provides an indication of what the soil contribution
in nutrients is likely to be before the crop is planted," he explained.
""Soil testing also provides a recommendation of which and how
much of the essential nutrients (mostly P, K, Ca Mg and micronutrients)
need to be supplied through fertilizer application. In contract, tissue
testing provides a snap shot during crop growth of how healthy the plant
is. Because of factors such as pH, nutrient competition and chemical precipitation,
the presence of an element in the soil is no guarantee that its supply
to the plant will be adequate."
Ten Important Principles
In his second presentation, Simonne reminded the group of 10 principles
for developing fertilization plans and irrigation schedules:
(1) With plasticulture, think in terms of rows - and not in terms of field
surface for irrigation and fertilization.
(2) Irrigation amount must reflect crop water use - no more, no less.
(3) Irrigation amount should not exceed soil water holding capacity; otherwise,
water is wasted and mobile nutrients are leached.
(4) Rainfall contributes little to replenishing soil moisture - because
of the plastic mulch.
(5) Monitor soil moisture level daily. This can be helpful in discovering
the level of crop water stress.
(6) Keep irrigation records daily.
(7) Plants need all of the essential nutrients.
(8) Soil test and follow the recommendation.
(9) Monitor crop nutritional status with sap test or foliar analysis and
discover how healthy the PET plants are.
(10) Adopt these principles and be prepared for the BMPs and TMDLS. TMDL
stands for total maximum daily loads. BMPs are specific cultural practices
that will help reduce load, and thereby the environmental impact of vegetable
In his presentation, C.D. Smart of Cornell University reported that bacterial
diseases and white mold were common ailments last season in many New York
tomato and pepper fields. Due to wet conditions, many pathogens were able
to thrive. Bacterial canker was very common in tomato fields, while white
mold and some bacterial spot were seen on peppers. Bacterial speck and
spot as well as early blight and late blight were also present in some
Control of bacterial diseases in tomato and pepper fields begins with
the production of disease-free transplants, the speaker pointed out. He
also made the following recommendations:
(1) Plant disease-free seed.
(2) Plant spot-resistant pepper varieties.
(3) If growing and using transplants, all greenhouse materials should
be cleaned and sterilized prior to use.
(4) If trellising tomatoes, stakes should either be new or cleaned and
(5) Adopt a three-year crop rotation away from tomatoes and peppers.
(6) Because bacterial diseases can spread by splashing water, avoid overhead
(7) Avoid working in the crop when it is wet.
"Control measures for white mold in tomatoes and peppers are limited,"
Smart emphasized. "Cultural controls that increase drainage and improve
air flow are recommended. Rotation to non-hosts, such as grain and sweet
corn for a minimum of three years, will help reduce inoculum. However,
sclerotia are long lived in the soil and spores produced by the sclerotia
can become airborne and move some distance. The only product labeled for
control of white mold on peppers and tomatoes in New York is Contans.
This is a biological control method that contains the fungus Coniothrium
minitans. This fungus has the ability to colonize and destroy sclerotia
in the soil.
In his report on
late blight and its control, Cornell's Thomas Zitter reported that the
disease popped up in several states in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic
region during the 2003 season. Among the challenges today is the occurrence
of new exotic and more virulent strains of P. infestans that are forcing
plant pathologists to reexamine the biology of this organism. The host
range has been extended to include hairy nightshade, garden petunia and
bittersweet, the researcher said.
"Fortunately, our situation in North America is not as bleak as in
Holland where the potato crop may require as many as 22 applications,
with applications beginning as early as April," he said.
Other than late blight resistance for metalaxyl and mefenoxam, there are
no fungicide resistance concerns with products currently used to control
late blight, he said. Most products, however, are tank-mixed and alternated
with protectant fungicides and materials with different modes of action.
Reporting on a tomato fungicide trail held last year at Freeville, N.Y.,
Zitter noted that there were no significant differences among the better
late blight materials tested. However, exceptional control was achieved
with Ranman, Reason and Tanos when alternated with protectant fungicides.
Bravo, when used preventatively for late blight control, also performed
well. Used alone and mixed with Dithane, Phostrol provided good foliar
control for late blight. Later in the season, however, it provided less
© 2004 Columbia
Double Up Pepper Best Quality Fruit in Trials
The Tomato Magazine
MORGAN HILLS, Calif.-
Double Up Bell Pepper outperformed all other pepper varieties in a study
conducted by the San Joaquin County Farm advisor during the summer and
fall of 2003. The study evaluated fruit quality, horticultural characteristics
and yield. Other Sakata varieties, including XPP 1133 and XPP 1136, were
among the leading varieties for fruit quality and marketable yield.
The Bell Pepper variety evaluation trial, conducted by Bob Mullen, farm
advisor, San Joaquin County, was held at Foppiano Farms in French Camp,
Calif., southeast of Stockton. The trial contained 10 replicated varieties
and 10 additional lines in single replication observation plots. The replicated
trial of commercial standard bell pepper varieties was in a field of Baron,
which was also one of the varieties replicated.
Double Up, followed by XPP 1133, was the leading variety in fruit quality,
including blocky shape and good fruit wall thickness. These bell peppers
were also leading varieties in yield of red or colored plus green marketable
In the observation block, XPP 1136 was among the best yielding varieties
of red or colored plus green marketable fruit.
The Central Valley is a major production region for bell peppers in California.
San Joaquin County produced approximately 2,300 acres of primarily bell
peppers in 2003 for both fresh and processing markets. Production primarily
occurs in this region during midsummer to late fall. The pepper industry
requires that commercial varieties be developed for high yield potential
and excellent horticultural traits.
Sakata Seed America, Inc. is located in Morgan Hill, Calif. The company
provides high quality flower and vegetable seed. For trial information,
or information on Sakata's products, services, or dealers, call (408)
778-7758; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; or visit www.sakata.com
© 2004 Columbia
From Annual California Tomato Commission Conference
The Tomato Magazine
Highlights of the California
Tomato Commission's 18th annual conference - held in sunny Cabo San Lucas,
Mexico in mid-February - included whale watching, shopping and dancing
on the beach. However, here is an overview of the organization's accomplishments
and other actions for 2003.
California's 2003 harvest began in late May, as a cool spring delayed
harvest in Baja, the Desert, and southern California. Plantings were estimated
to be down just slightly from 2002, with the decrease in southern California,
the result of urban encroachment.
The cool weather impacted yield for much of the early harvest. The shortened
season reduced shipments of mature green tomatoes by better than 10 percent.
Southern California shipments lagged 2002 by better than one million cartons
by season's end, due to the reduced plantings. Roma tomato shipments increased
by 10 percent as growers moved away from mature green tomatoes.
By the end of the season, California production was the lowest in three
years, just over 36 million cartons, compared to 40.8 million in 2002,
and 37.1 million cartons in 2001.
Domestic Market Development
Retail tomato sales were generally flat, with on-the-vine, vine ripe and
roma tomatoes the strongest performers. The market share for vine ripe
tomatoes, up by 200 percent following the anti-dumping action, held steady
Mature green market share continued to decline as retailers tended to
adopt a uniform 3151 PLU for field round tomatoes. As a result, the true
state of the market is best understood not from hard category data, but
rather, from actual audits by the California Tomato Commission that confirm
a continued decline in market share. The summer audit suggested that mature
green tomatoes were somewhat limited to Hispanic and independent retailers.
The Commission continued its "Preferred Partnership Program,"
building alliances with shippers, repackers and retailers to maintain
shelf space for California field tomatoes. Again, with a focus on the
western U.S., individual promotional programs were developed to address
the specific needs of each retail chain. These programs were accepted
by chains, and represented more than 2,000 stores.
In California, retailers were very receptive to promoting the California
Grown program within their produce departments. And throughout the west,
the Commission's Hispanic marketing programs were enthusiastically accepted,
with a growing number of large stores being targeted for promotional opportunities.
These Latino program elements will continue to expand throughout the U.S.
during 2004. Educational audits and technical training seminars also played
a significant role in the Commission's marketing schedule.
The foodservice market has seen continued expansion, despite warnings
of lost revenues due to current economic conditions, growing by more than
four percent per year for the last three years. During the last year,
the nation's expanding waistline made headlines, and fast food restaurants
rapidly began replacing some of their less healthy fare with more low-fat
and low-carb alternatives.
In 2003, the Commission worked with targeted foodservice operators and
corporate restaurant chain decision-makers to develop relationships, and
initiate specialized promotions and menu placement opportunities. Education
was also a central part of maintaining growth for California tomatoes
in the foodservice sector; technical audits and handling seminars continued
on an individualized basis, as well as during PMA's Fresh Produce Academy.
Since 2001, the Commission has continued its partnership with the Buy
California Marketing Agreement, helping to promote the benefits of buying
locally grown agricultural products. Research shows that the effort is
working. A new study commissioned by BCMA conducted in September 2003
showed that of those surveyed, 61 percent were familiar with the California
Grown message, and that 78 percent of women, and 78 percent of Hispanics,
recalled seeing the television commercials and are more favorably disposed
toward products grown in California. Retail acceptance of the program
also continues to expand, with every major retailer in the state joining
in promotional efforts to identify California products both in store and
in their ad pages.
Studies also show the economic importance of buying locally grown products
becoming important educational and marketing tools. For example, a study
at the University of California Davis illustrates an economic evaluation
on the effects of buying products grown in California: Consumers spending
just $1.63 per week on state-grown products would equate to over one billion
dollars in annual economic activity throughout California.
The Commission's educational outreach, for the consumer and trade, continues
to be a major component. In 2003, some of these activities included updating
the Commission's Web site to include advice columns answering consumers'
questions regarding nutrition and recipes, as well as technical storage
and handling issues from the retail and foodservice sectors. Moreover,
on the consumer side, the "Tito's Kids Corner" was greatly expanded,
adding games and lesson plans aimed at elementary through high school
teachers. More than 3,800 consumers requested the Commission's health
brochure, and the site also handled more than 100 requests for retail
materials, and in excess of 350 requests for foodservice information.
Direct mail information was sent to U.S. dieticians, generating the distribution
of more than 46,000 pieces of nutritional information and recipes.
Export Market Development
The Commission's 2003 export market development program sought to build
incremental exports to Canada, while building support for California tomatoes
in Mexico to achiev3e future export growth. Though short supply and high
pricing during the California season had little impact on demand for California
tomatoes in Canada, decreases in other markets brought a reduction in
U.S. export volumes from June-November versus the previous year.
In addition to California Tomato Commission grower funding o the export
program, the Commission obtained additional funding from the U.S. Department
of Agriculture's Market Access Program totaling $414,000, bring the total
export marketing dollars to $493,500.
Canada continued to be the largest export market for California tomatoes
in 2003, with 83 percent of U.S. exports from June through November destined
to this market. While 2003 exports for this period represent a slight
volume decrease from 2002, export values increased by 27 percent and exports
as a percentage of the fresh tomato crop remained stable.
The Commission's 2003 Canada-focused programs included merchandising,
trade communication activities, technical assistance, retail and foodservice
cooperative promotions, consumer research and public relations.
In 2003, the Commission's tomato exports to Mexico decreased as higher-priced
U.S. round tomatoes were displaced by less expensive and more abundant
domestic romas during California's season. However, the majority of Mexican
wholesalers and retailers in northern Mexico continued stocking California
tomatoes in lower volumes.
The Commission's 2003 Mexico program focused on trade education, which
included a tour of California tomato growing areas and repacking facilities
in several U.S. cities. This activity was complemented with trade communication
activities and promotional support.
Following the discontinuance of the California Tomato Commission's program
in Japan, California exports to this market were extremely limited in
2003. In addition, exports to several Central American markets persisted,
although in lower volumes. The Commission will continue to pursue promotional
programming in new markets as opportunities are identified.
© 2004 Columbia
Luck Through Strategic Planning
The Tomato Magazine
In an effort to improve
efficiency, the California Tomato Commission redefines its strategic plan
on a regular. According to CTC's president Ed Beckman, the last revision
was in 2001. "It (the strategic plan) was initiated at a time when
we were in the midst of some turmoil and when buyer consolidation was
starting to become an issue," he said. "Also, there was an onslaught
of greenhouse tomatoes."
During the 15th annual conference in San Francisco, Beckman shared his
opinion about CTC's challenges and opportunities; he also borrowed a quote
from Mark Twain: "The reports of our demise were greatly exaggerated."
Having just experienced one of the better years for California tomatoes
in 2003, Beckman feels a great deal more optimism today than in 2001.
Part of that optimism is due to the cooperative efforts of industry members.
During the group's annual meeting in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico in February,
Beckman posed to the 140 attendees questions that are on a lot of people's
mind: "What happened in 2003, will it happen again or was it just
To answer those questions, Beckman cites Louis Patler's recent book titled
"Trendsmart: The Power of Knowing What's Coming and What's Here to
Stay!" Beckman is quick to point out that Patler's observations include
the idea that good luck comes to those who seek it.
Applying this concept to the California tomato industry, Beckman explains
that many experts, including Foodservice.com, believed that CTC was experiencing
a glut of tomato production in 2003 and that tomato supplies would continue
below average for the foreseeable future.
Au contraire said Beckman. "Obviously, the Foodservice.com people
had not read Patler's book," he said. "They didn't understand
the importance of knowing what was actually coming."
Rhetorically, Beckman asks, "Maybe 2003 was as good as it was simply
because of a little bit of luck. Well, it came to those who sought it
out. And we can learn from history but we cannot wait for history to repeat
itself. Because luck just doesn't happen."
According to Beckman, the CTC 2001 strategic plan did not forecast the
successes in 2003. It was based on facts and emerging trends, he contends.
A strategic plan must be specific and contain information that is attainable.
For example, Beckman looks at one of CTC's recent goals that read: Expand
the Buy California Campaign into foodservice. That same goal reads like
this: In 2004, Subway will introduce California select sandwiches showcasing
California-grown tomatoes, lettuce and peppers, wrapped in a low-carb,
California sourdough bun. "This is visualizing where our efforts
should be," said Beckman. "When you take a look at the result
it's not just telling you that we're going to be expanding into foodservice,
but also educate the consumers as to the true value that comes from California
agriculture; not just in tomatoes, but from all the produce as well."
Beckman urges all audience members to be specific with strategic planning
and goal setting. "Examine your company. Do you have a destination
for your company? Do you have goals or obstacles in place? Do you have
a vision, something which you can touch and feel? And realize, we all
have perceptions of the goals we set for ourselves."
© 2004 Columbia
Herbicides: What We Have Gained, What We Have Lost and Possible Future
The Tomato Magazine
By William M. Stall
UF/IFAS, Horticultural Sciences Department, Gainesville
What We Have Gained
Several new herbicides have become available for use in tomato production.
Research is still ongoing on their best use in a weed management system.
Growers should check their individual labels for all instructions before
Dupont has issued a supplemental label for the use of Matrix on fresh
market tomatoes. At present, the pre-emergence application is for seeded
tomatoes. We are working with Dupont to add a pre-transplant statement.
Matrix may be applied both pre-emergence and post-emergence to tomatoes
and weeds at 1-2 oz. product (025-0.5 oz. ai) in single or sequential
applications. For POST (weed) applications, a non-ionic surfactant is
required. Matrix may also be applied to row middles.
Sandea (halosufluron): Gowan has labeled Sandea for use in several vegetables
including tomatoes. A total of two applications of Sandea may be applied
as either one pre-transplant soil surface treatment at 0.5-0.75 oz. product;
one over-the-top application 14 days after transplanting at 0.5-0.75 oz.
product; a pre-transplant plus an over-the-top or a POST followed by a
POST application of up to 0.75 oz. product. Row middle applications may
be made at up to 1 oz. product. A non-ionic surfactant must be used with
Dual Magnum (S-metolachlor): Syngenta has labeled Dual Magnum to be applied
pre-plant non-incorporated to the top of pressed beds as the last step
prior to laying plastic. It is also labeled for use in row middles. The
rates labeled at 1.0 to 1.33 points per acre if the organic matter is
less than 3 percent. Research as indicated that the 1.33 pint rate may
be too high in some Florida soils except in row middles. Good results
have been seen at 0.6 to 1.0 pints, especially in tank mix situations
Goal (oxyfluorfen): Dow has labeled Goal for use as a fallow-bed treatment
in several crops. Goal should be applied as surface treatment to preformed
beds at 1-2 pints/A product. A 30-day treatment to planting interval must
be maintained. Mulch may be applied any time during the 30-day interval.
Aim (carfentrazone): Aim is a broadleaf burn-down herbicide from FMC that
has a Section 18 label for post-emergence control of emerged weeds in
row middles. It is particularly effective on the control of paraquat-resistant
American black nightshade. The use rate is 1 to 2 fl oz product per acre.
To control grasses, it must be tank mixed.
What We have Lost
Two labels have been lost for use in tomatoes since last year. For vegetables
in general, there have been several products lost. These are mostly older,
seldom used products that had to be incorporated. For tomatoes the labels
Tillam (prebulate): Pebulate was scheduled for re-registration. No company
registered the product for 2003 and the federal registration was canceled.
Boa (paraquat): Griffin decided to discontinue the Boa label. Paraquat
is still available on tomatoes under the Gramoxone label. The affect of
the label loss will be more acute in vegetables other than tomatoes where
Boa had a burn down label while Gramoxone does not. The pre- and row-middle
label, as well as the burn down after final harvest, is still on the Gramoxone
Possible Future Labels
There are a number of herbicides for which residue studies are being carried
out in the IR-4 program. Potential labels for some of these may be less
than a year to several years away. These are being listed for information
purposes. They are:
Cobra (lactofen): Residue studies are being done for a Florida state label
only. Cobra has both pre-emergence and post-emergence activity on many
broadleaf weeds in row middles, especially nightshade. There was a Section
18 label for Cobra several years ago, which was lost when the whole herbicide
class chemistry came under EPA review. Valent will petition EPA for a
state label when the studies are completed and reviewed.
Valor (flumioxazin): Residue studies are being carried out nationally
for tomato, pepper and eggplant row-middle application. Valor has both
pre-emergence and post-emergence activity on many broadleaf weeds. Two
years of study in row middles in south Florida has shown that Valor has
excellent safety and the widest range of weed control of any of the herbicides
tested. A national label probably won't be available for several years.
Envoke (trifloxysulfuron): The tolerance packaged for tomatoes has been
submitted to EPA with possible tolerance establishment this year. Envoke
is an excellent nutsedge herbicide, with control of many broadleaf weeds
applied POST. The potential label will probably be a post-directed application
to established tomatoes.
Spartan (sulfentrazone): Efficacy studies have established that tomatoes
and peppers are tolerant to applications of Spartan under mulch. Also,
Spartan controls nutsedges pre, to a great extent, and has good control
of many broadleaf weeds in Florida. Spartan cannot be registered in Florida
until the soil dissipation studies submitted by FMC are reviewed by EPA.
Goal (oxyfluorfen): Pre-transplant residue studies are under way in peppers
with tomatoes to follow for reducing the pre-plant restrictions from 30
days to probably five.
Editor's Note: This
report was given Sept. 3 in Naples, Fla., as part of the 2003 Florida
© 2004 Columbia
the European Trend: Greenhouse Tomatoes Expected to Dominate the Fresh
The Tomato Magazine
tomatoes may someday dominate the fresh tomato market in the United States,
according to a University of Arizona researcher.
Dr. Gene Giacomelli, professor and director of the Controlled Environment
Agricultural Center at the University of Arizona, believes that if the
present growth rate continues, the only major market for field-grown tomatoes
in a few years may be to processors for tomato juice, tomato paste, ketchup
and other processed products.
"Twenty to 25 percent of fresh market tomatoes today were grown in
greenhouses," Giacomelli says. "Five years ago, I wrote a report
placing the figure at six percent. That's incredible growth."
Will the greenhouse tomato industry continue to increase market share?
There's little doubt about it, the researcher believes. The question is
not whether the industry will grow but how fast.
Market Dominance Possible
"Eventually, greenhouse-produced tomatoes could claim 100 percent
of the fresh-market category," he says. "Europe is almost there
now. Its fresh-market tomato category is completely dominated by greenhouse
product. Here in the U.S., consumers, too, have begun to appreciate the
consistency and quality of greenhouse tomatoes and are buying them in
larger numbers than ever before."
The introduction of the cluster tomato (in different colors), super sweets,
cherry tomatoes and, more recently, cocktail tomatoes are bringing variety
as well as improved taste and color to the marketplace, the researcher
"Most exciting about this industry is its growth potential,"
Giacomelli points out. "The stage is set for a bright future. We're
seeing young people coming into our greenhouse educational programs here
at the University of Arizona. They are enthusiastic and rejuvenated about
the future of high technology production agriculture."
But greenhouse tomato production today is far from regular farming, he
underscores. It is high technology and requires education, training and
"We're not talking about dirt farming anymore," he smiles. "It's
hydroponics, computers and a tightly controlled environment. It's beautiful
aluminum structures and plants that look like they could be growing in
a hospital because they are perfectly clean and neat and pest free - due
to the biological controls available today."
The infrastructure and technology required to make the greenhouse tomato
industry go have come together, the researcher believes, and the combination
is now improving productivity and the ability to make money.
Producers have learned how to grow product virtually year-round. Eight
weeks in advance of terminating the old tomato crop, workers initiate
the new crop by planting small seedlings underneath the older plants.
This practice, in itself, has reduced downtime, when there is no production,
from a month to a month and a half down to about a week.
Experienced greenhouse production companies such as EuroFresh Farms have
set up shop in Arizona and are seeking young, trained professionals to
step in and help them run and manage their operations, Giacomelli says.
Today, the University of Arizona is offering high-tech education in hydroponics
and greenhouse production and operates a 5,000-square-foot greenhouse
teaching laboratory year round to give students hands-on experience. In
addition, a greenhouse crop production and engineering design short course
is offered once each year to those outside of the university setting.
It includes four days of intense training, including classroom instruction
by academia, growers and others active in the industry. Attendees also
spend time in the university's greenhouse teaching laboratory and participate
in a tour of nearby commercial greenhouse facilities owned and operated
by EuroFresh Farms.
The 2005 Greenhouse Crop Production and Engineering Design Short Course
will take place Jan. 16-20 at the Tucson campus.
"This year, 65 people attended from as far away as Hawaii,"
Giacomelli notes. "Twenty-five percent were from Mexico; only a handful
lived here in Arizona. We've been targeting the western U.S., as other
greenhouse short courses are offered in the South and other parts of the
Arizona Leads the
Soon to be at 240 acres, Arizona now tops the country in greenhouse vegetable
crop production, according to the researcher. EuroFresh Farms has 165
acres at one site with another 45 to be added soon; it has another 20
acres at a second site. Today, there are slightly less than 900 acres
of greenhouse tomatoes grown in the U.S.
Companies such as EuroFresh have truly "tamed the desert," according
to Giacomelli. Utilizing as much sunlight as possible and the latest technologies
available, they have learned how to help their crops survive the state's
blistering temperatures and low humidity levels.
"Here in Arizona, growers are primarily using rock wool and drip
fertigation systems," the researcher says. "Drippers feed each
group of plants. Managers use a recycling system that picks up the drainage,
tops it off with additional nutrients, when necessary, and recirculates
everything. The system monitors nutrient and pH levels, adjusting both
to maintain plant growth." Yearly production per acre is 10 times
that of the field, and it uses four to six times less water per pound
of fruit harvested.
The hydroponics system makes changing the nutrients relatively easy, Giacomelli
says. Changing the electrical conductivity, or EC, to manage the needs
of the plants during various growth stages and during different times
of the year, also, is relatively simple.
Two types of supportive research at the University of Arizona are going
on, according to Giacomelli. One focuses on environmental controls, while
the other is targeted at improving productivity and fruit quality. Dr.
Chieri Kobota, a professor and greenhouse plant physiologist, is focusing
on improving tomato taste and quality.
"Primarily, she is experimenting with the nutrient environment. Growers
have been doing a lot of work, adding nonessential salts to increase the
EC at certain times of the day and then reduce it at other times,"
Giacomelli explains. "The goal is to help the plants grow better
and produce higher quality taste. The market is demanding improved taste."
A good example is the introduction of the cocktail tomato, the researcher
points out. Not a cherry tomato and nowhere near beef stake size or tomato
sizes coming out of Europe, cocktail tomatoes have a strong flavor and
can be very sweet. In ways, they are the same old tomato but in a new
package. The greenhouse is morphing its tomato output and is turning out
different shapes, sizes, flavors and colors, adding excitement to the
marketplace. Even more important, such tomatoes are now available year-round,
as the market demands.
"To make that this happen, is something we've been working on for
a long time," Giacomelli says. "Our goal has been to take the
greenhouse grower from being a seasonal, 'hit the high market,' or 'hit
the market whenever you can' producer to a year-round tomato factory turning
out high value fruit continuously."
Consumers are recognizing this is a different type of tomato, and, therefore,
it demands a higher price, Giacomelli says. They also are displaying a
willingness to pay for that added quality.
University of Arizona scientists also are looking at the environment and
how it influences plant growth and, ultimately, fruit quality. They are
manipulating both temperature and humidity levels inside the greenhouse.
In one study, the research team has been experimenting with changes in
the salt level in the root zone, electrical conductivity and the vapor
pressure deficit in the air around each plant. Certain changes influence
the plant to be more vegetative and produce less fruit and more leaves;
others make it more reproductive with more fruit and less leaves.
"Combining engineering and horticultural concerns, we have been documenting
at what levels the combination of these two affects the plant," Giacomelli
explains. "We want to know how fast the plant can change from an
unbalanced, too vegetative or too reproductive scenario to a more balanced
As the seasons change, so does the amount of solar radiation available.
Being able to manipulate the plant helps growers maximize yields.
"Our goal is to maintain the health and vigor of the plants as long
as possible," he says. "We want to keep them in balance with
the sunlight available from nature. Ideally, we don't want a plant to
produce a lot of fruit on the first four or five clusters and then be
so depleted in its energy reserves that the next four or five clusters
are smaller than desired or there is an overall reduction in the number
"Both growers and researchers call this 'steering the plant.' We
want that plant to produce a load of fruit that matches its capability,
given the particular environment. And that's exciting from an engineering
standpoint, because we can control the environment. We can manipulate
temperatures, relative humidity and, ultimately, vapor pressure deficit,
or VPD, to where the plant is most productive. Environmental control in
agriculture (CEA), the new technology agriculture, can get it to produce
more consistent taste and overall quality as well as the number of fruit."
© 2004 Columbia
Study Shows: Temperature Levels Important During Seedling Shipments
The Tomato Magazine
of tomato growers purchase their seedlings from specialized seedling producers
instead of using their own facilities to grow their own. It is especially
the case for grafted seedlings that require specialized propagation techniques.
While advantageous in some ways, the approach is not without its risks.
One drawback of purchasing seedlings is the risk of plant deterioration
during transportation and successive delayed growth or fruit development.
Trucking the seedlings from where they are grown to the various farms
where they will be grown to maturity takes time and can lead to plant
Today, however, such risk can be substantially reduced or eliminated although,
thanks to recent research from Chieri Kubota and Mark Kroggel with the
Controlled Environment Agriculture Program (CEAC), University of Arizona,
Tucson, Ariz. In their study, "Analyses and Optimization of Long
Distance Transportation Conditions for High Quality Tomato Seedlings,"
they found that reducing the temperature inside the transportation trailers
to 12ºC from the conventional 18ºC can make all of the difference
in the world.
The study was done in conjunction with Damian Solomon of EuroFresh Farms
Inc., Willcox, Ariz., and Leo Benne of Bevo Farms Ltd., Milner, B.C.,
Production of high quality seedlings is crucial to the success of the
final crop, the researchers acknowledged. Along with planting conditions
and flower development status, transportation conditions affect resulting
flower abortion and delayed fruit development of the first truss. Significant
yield losses and delays are often experienced.
Plant quality deteriorates quickly inside a truck when transported under
darkness at ambient temperatures for a prolonged period, Kubota pointed
out. An unfavorable dark storage environment induces chlorophyll loss,
leaf abscission and a reduction in carbohydrate reserves. Environmental
conditions during transportation can affect the quality of seedlings,
including the yield and quality of the fruit produced.
During their research, Kubota and associates found that reducing air temperature
from 18 to 12ºC inside the transportation trailers significantly
improved the development of flower and fruits of the first truss. Optimizing
environmental conditions is critical for successful long distance transportation
of quality seedlings for fresh vegetable production in greenhouses, they
Greenhouse hydroponic growers generally prefer their tomato seedlings
to be six to eight weeks old and 15 to 20 cm in height.
The University of Arizona study was initiated to answer feedback coming
in from hydroponic growers using tomato seedlings shipped in from outside
sources. They reported an ongoing challenge with abnormal first truss
development (1) when seedlings were transplanted with well-developed first
flower truss; (2) when they were inter-planted into shady internal rows;
and (3) when seedlings were transported during the summer.
In addition to a carbohydrate loss during transportation at the conventional
18ºC temperature, accumulation of ethylene inside the trailers remained
as a possible cause of flower abortion. Ethylene generally promotes flower
thinning. However, evidence of greater incidence of abnormal first truss
development when seedlings were planted in shady internal rows suggested
the problem was more related to changing carbohydrate status during transportation,
combined with the effects of greenhouse environments before and after
transportation, Kubota said.
In their studies, the researchers noted that upon transplant, no notable
visible differences were observed between seedlings transported at 18
and 12ºC. After four weeks from transplanting, however, many seedlings
transported at 18º C showed either aborted or delayed fruit development
in the first truss. The incidence of either abortion or delayed fruit
development was 95 percent, and the number of flower buds that exhibited
abnormal development was 2.1 ± 0.31 per truss for 18ºC transportation,
significantly greater than for 12ºC transportation, the researcher
explained. Such abnormal development was typically seen in the peduncle
closer to the stem, suggesting that these old flower buds, relatively
large in size and visible at the time of transplanting, were negatively
impacted by transportation.
Transportation tests conducted showed that lowering temperature inside
the trailers to 12ºC significantly reduced the incidence of abnormal
first truss development, Kubota said. Separately conducted experiments
suggested that lowering temperature during transportation maintained the
photosynthetic and growth capacity of tomato seedlings and prevented fruit
The number of normal fruits per truss was not significantly different
between 18 and 12ºC transported plants, although the plants shipped
at a temperature of 18ºC were planted five days earlier than plants
shipped at 12ºC temperature, she said.
"This indicates that transportation at 18ºC caused significant
delay in first harvest and therefore loss of annual yield," Kubota
Optimizing transportation conditions can open new windows of opportunity
for tomato seedling producers, the researcher said. Seedlings can be shipped
longer distances without jeopardizing their performance in the greenhouse.
Such seedlings can be used to help meet growing world-wide market demand,
filling orders both locally as well as much further away.
© 2004 Columbia
NationFresh: Market Alliance
Off to a Fast Start
The Tomato Magazine
Launched less than
two year ago, NationFresh is well on its way to becoming a superpower
in the tomato industry, supplying major retailers and foodservice clientele
all across the United States.
"For a 16-month-old company, we're excited about what's happening.
We've already captured a significant market share and are far past our
expectations for this early in the history of the business," says
Steven Phipps, national director of sales and marketing.
With its national sales and marketing office in Springfield, Mo., NationFresh
involves a nationwide group of successful packers and repackers; Esformes
family-owned growing operations in Palmetto, Florida (Pacific Tomato Growers),
Tracy, Calif. (Triple E) and Mexico (CalRoy Pacific); and other growers
supplying packing house partners for years.
680 Years of Experience
"Those involved in this marketing alliance have a combined history
of 680 years in the tomato business," Phipps points out. "From
this huge resource, we are able to offer our customers pretty much any
type of tomato, from traditional beef steak varieties grown in the field
to vine-ripes, cherry tomatoes and other types grown in hot houses."
The idea for beginning NationFresh came out of a strategic planning
session in 2002 in Norfolk, Iowa. Gathered were executives from Capital
City Fruit to discuss ways to survive the growing consolidation trends
taking place in the produce industry. They were wrestling with how to
compete with national companies supplying huge retailers such as Wal-Mart,
Albertsons and Krogers as well as foodservice distributors such as Sysco.
"Whether with price or specs, there are times when a regional tomato
supplier is at a disadvantage competing against those offering national
or nationwide contracts," Phipps pointed out. "These chains
don't want to manage 12 or 15 different regional tomato repackers when
they can go to one source and tie up all of their needs there."
Determined to retain or expand market share, the original vision for NationFresh
was birthed. Soon, the organizers began recruiting member affiliates and
the team to run the company. Phipps was hired from Combs Produce Co.,
a 48-year-old produce company in Dallas, Texas, to manage national sales
and marketing. It took about two years to put everything together. NationFresh
was formally organized as an LLC in December 2002.
"The biggest portion of our membership is tomato repackers,"
Phipps says. "In bringing growers and repackers together like we've
done, we're able to provide a system-wide offering. We can guarantee consistent
product specs, pricing, food safety programs and other advantages. Thus
far, it's been a good ride."
Proven Reliability Important
To become affiliated with NationFresh, member companies have to
have demonstrated integrity in their ability to deliver high quality product
capable of meeting industry specs. Each company has its own grower base,
proven and reliable over many years. It also must be like-minded in its
commitment to the alliance and have a history of paying its bills on time.
How does the system work?
All sales are generated at the Springfield, Mo., national sales and marketing
office. However, the actual orders are filled by member affiliates all
across the country. The orders pour in via telephone, fax or EDI and are
dispersed to member companies, wherever they may be.
"We manage and hold the gavel, so to speak, on the quality of product,"
Phipps stresses. "From this one location, we oversee the specs and
make sure all customer service is provided."
A retailer, for example, has various options at his disposal. If he wants
to do his own brand, that service is provided. If he wants a nationally
recognized brand, NationFresh offers the well-known Birds Eye Fresh
label. The company holds exclusive rights to supply Birds Eye Fresh brand
tomatoes throughout the U.S. and Canada. A third option is the NationFresh
"Our 'go to market' strategy is pretty simple," Phipps explains.
"We want to be the category leader. So, when we meet with a retailer
such as Albertsons, Krogers or Wal-Mart, and they want everything packaged
under their own brand names, we can offer that across the entire category.
If they want a consumer recognized brand, we have the 75-year-old trusted
Birds Eye brand available.
"If they don't want their name hung on the product and don't want
the premium consumer brand, we offer our NationFresh brand. And
in doing that, we develop whatever specs they require. Hence, they still
have packaging consistency system wide, but are not marketing their own
or a consumer brand."
NationFresh provides its own packaging for products coming out of
Canada, Mexico and other domestic sources - everything from regular field-grown
tomato varieties to those originating in hot house or greenhouse settings.
"Many tomato repackers today commonly take a four-pack tomato and
put it right back in the 25-pound shipper box it arrived in when they
were buying raw product," Phipps points out. "They then forward
that on to their customers. Here, we've developed common footprint, display-ready,
graphics boxes for every item. Instead of using the original boxes, not
designed four four-pack tomatoes, we're sending the tomatoes in a 16-count,
display-ready box that can go right on the shelf. Product integrity is
much improved because of less handling, and you have a much more cosmetically
appealing package. Overall retail labor is also reduced."
The company is committed to providing its customers with value-added products,
Phipps stresses. Consumers with questions are encourage to call 1-866-FRESH4U.
Plan to Expand Product Line
While NationFresh management has the short-term goal of becoming
the "most advanced tomato provider" in the country, over the
long run it hopes to begin marketing more than just tomatoes.
"With all of these member companies, we have tremendous existing
ability to distribute other produce as well," the national director
of sales and marketing says. "Ninety percent of our membership handles
more than just tomatoes, and we already have full distributors in many
major cities. To begin supplying other fruits, vegetables and services
would not be that difficult."
Phipps can be reached by e-mailing him at email@example.com, attention
Steve, or by calling (417) 864-6335 or (866) FRESH4U.
© 2004 Columbia
Blossom End Rot
The Tomato Magazine
By Arlene Jacobs
Tomatoes and peppers,
in particular, need adequate calcium levels to prevent Blossom End Rot
(BER). But prevention isn't simply a matter of adding calcium. Calcium
and boron need to be in the proper ratio and in adequate concentrations
to have proper fruit set of all fruiting crops, warns David St. John of
Plant Food Co. Inc.
Quality results are being reported by growers using Agri 6-0-8. The product
has been shown a decrease BER in tomatoes and peppers with a resultant
yield increase due to less fruit loss in the field. All say the firmer
fruit witnessed with the use of the Agri 6-0-8 appears to be related to
the amount of calcium provided.
David Wuillermin, a plum tomato and bell pepper grower, changed his fertilizer
regimen over this past season to Agri 6-0-8. "I wanted something
that would give the whole fertilizer in one application," Wuillermin
The advantages of using Agri 6-0-8 for trickle fertigation are many, according
to St. John. Among them, it is the only liquid fertilizer containing calcium,
sulfur, magnesium and all common micronutrients in one clear product.
The only other liquid fertilizer containing nitrogen, potash and calcium
has only those three elements, thus the grower must add all other elements
as a separate fertigation after flushing his lines and equipment. The
reason, he explains, is common forms of calcium, sulfur and magnesium
are not compatible.
With this new regimen there have been less rejects and culls, notes Wuillermin.
Quality, color, firmness and fruit size are all much improved. Overall,
the plants are healthier and experience reduced disease problems.
Calcium is most effectively utilized by the plants when taken up, along
with other nutrients, by the roots. Delivering it via irrigation in the
root zone allows for optimum uptake. Calcium, as supplied by the 6-0-8
liquid fertilizer, is readily available for utilization.
Tomatoes, in particular, have a tendency to experience magnesium deficiencies,
St. John points out. This is due to attempts to provide adequate levels
of calcium in the soil to help prevent BER. The 6-0-8 supplies magnesium
in adequate amounts as well.
"It's been my experience that most growers do not need to supplement
their fertility program while using 6-0-8," St. John advises.
With 6-0-8, no multiple applications are needed, Wuillermin agrees. Everything
needed is accomplished with one feeding, and it doesn't clog the drip
As during previous years, testing of the grower's fields indicated no
increase in salt levels, and nutrient levels remained constant. Wuillermin
only needed to alter the calcium levels once. The product, he added, was
easy to handle and worked well.
While initially costing "a little more," Wuillermin says his
investment was well worth it due to the amount of time saved. But, more
importantly, fruit yields and quality were both better.
"I didn't have to do multiple applications of fertilizers, and no
foliar applications were required to regulate the nutrient levels,"
the grower smiles.
When using "generic" fertilizer, Wuillermin says he always had
to guess when to add additional nutrients, such as nitrogen or calcium.
"The cost might scare some people away, but they should give it a
try," he counseled. "What you put in is usually what you get
out. But with this product, what you get out is much more than what you
Information for this article was provided by Yara North America, formerly
Hydro Agri North America. For more information e-mail Terje.Gronlie@yara.com.
© 2004 Columbia
BC Hot House Foods Inc. Launches Sweetooth®Peppers
The Tomato Magazine
Sweetooth® Sweet Peppers are now available in both retail and foodservice
customers, according to a recent news release from BC Hot House Foods
Inc., Surrey, B.C. Sweetooth® Peppers are a complementary product
to the expanding BC Hot House Sweet Bell Pepper product line.
BC Hot House Sweetoothâ Peppers are unique in size, shape and taste.
As indicated by Dawn Gray, vice president of marketing at BC Hot House
Foods, the product is new and a unique addition to the sweet pepper category.
"Sweetooth® Peppers look unlike any other product in the produce
section," Gray says. "They are long and cone-shaped. Not to
be mistaken with hot peppers, these items are extremely sweet. They have
a brix level of +9.0 - significantly sweeter than Sweet Bell Peppers which
generally have +6.0 brix."
Taste is only part of the satisfaction that this product delivers, according
to Gray. Sweetooth® Peppers are extremely easy to use. Because they
have a tiny seed cap, they are convenient to use in the kitchen. Cutting
the pepper width-wise yields ready-to-serve-and-cook rings in seconds.
Individual Sweetooth Peppers measure approximately 8 ½ inches in
length and 2 ½ inches in diameter.
There are two bright colors of BC Hot House Sweetooth® Peppers, red
and yellow. They are packed in an attractive two-pack cello bag (eight
units per box), and can be displayed either alongside bagged salads or
Sweet Bell Peppers. The packaging creates additional benefits to both
the retailer and the consumer.
"The cello bag bundles volume together to increase net purchase weight
and triggers a higher ring for the retailer," says Gray. It also
provides the retailer with extended product shelf life in lieu of product
being sold as loose, bulk product. Suggested retail price is $3.03 per
BC Hot House Foods Inc, Surrey, Canada, is a world leader in the hydroponically
grown produce industry. Founded in 1973 as the Western Greenhouse Growers
Co-op, it was incorporated in 1997 as BC Hot House Foods Inc. To learn
more about BC Hot House, visit www.bchothouse.com.
© 2004 Columbia
Segments Prefer Field-grown
The Tomato Magazine
How important are field-grown, fresh-market tomatoes, and will they continue
to enjoy a commanding market share?
Very important, according to distributors servicing the foodservice industry,
and, yes, a dominant niche for field- versus greenhouse-grown tomatoes
is projected for the foreseeable future.
After publishing a feature article, "Greenhouse Tomatoes Expected
to Dominate the Fresh Tomato Market," in the June issue of this magazine,
the editors were reminded that not everyone agrees with the conclusion
made by Dr. Gene Giacomelli, quoted in the article. A professor and director
of the Controlled Environment Agricultural Center at the University of
Arizona, Giacomelli noted that greenhouse-produced tomatoes currently
account for 25 percent of fresh market tomato sales and, in time, are
expected to dominate total U.S. fresh market tomato sales as has been
the case in Europe.
Some Prefer Field-grown
There are market segments, the foodservice industry, for example, that
strongly prefer field-grown, mature green and vine-ripe tomatoes over
hot house-grown tomatoes, according to the California Tomato Commission.
Over 50 percent of the 2003 California tomato crop, for example, was marketed
into foodservice channels. Sales totaled more than $200 million.
Firm tomatoes are required for chopping, dicing and slicing, and the foodservice
segment, in particular, has shown no indications of changing its preferences
for field-grown tomatoes, the Commission notes.
Field-grown, round tomatoes are the tomatoes of choice for most foodservice
operators, according to Eric Jahnke, vice president and COO of DiMare
Fresh, Dallas, Texas. The reason, he explains, is foodservice operators
find it easier to control their yield costs per tomato and master carton.
Gas-green tomatoes are firmer in texture. Fast food operators serving
hamburgers, for example, are better able to calculate how many slices
they can cut per tomato.
Field tomatoes may not be as cosmetically friendly as their greenhouse
produced cousins, but, in terms of the yield and production, they are
more cost-effective for foodservice customers, Jahnke asserts. Over the
long run, foodservice operators are better able to control their food
costs because of the continuity and consistent yields they get from using
Geoff Cooney, director of Ready Fresh Produce, Vancouver, B.C., agrees.
Foodservice operators prefer the firmness of a field-grown tomato, he
says. Hot house-grown tomatoes are softer and more difficult to slice.
And since more than 50 percent of every dollar spent on food today is
for meals eaten out, the foodservice market is very important to the field-grown
Owned by Gordon Food Service, Grand Rapids, Mich., Ready Fresh Produce
markets entirely to the foodservice industry.
Most national foodservice operators request mature green, field-grown
tomatoes, points out Bill Piper, general manager and tomato buyer for
Grant County Foods, Dry Ridge, Ky., whose company also services the foodservice
industry. One reason, he explains, is mature greens survive better under
colder storage temperatures.
"We are talking here about temperature-related abuses at in-house
distribution companies and broadliners," he says. "In the past,
most have used only a two-compartment trailer, meaning that everything
is stored in either the freezer or cooler. There have been only two choices.
Tomatoes are kept in the cooler section, but the temperature is usually
colder than that prescribed for tomatoes. That, of course, changes the
flavor profile and expected shelf life of the product."
Significant improvements in storage handling have been made throughout
the distribution system, but, at the restaurant level, there is still
plenty of room for improvement, Piper explains. Most foodservice operators
have limited places to store everything, so tomatoes often end up in the
cooler, where temperatures generally are 40 degrees or below-less than
ideal for storing tomatoes. Since hot house vine-ripes are further along
in their life expectancy, they don't hold up as well as mature greens.
Given such circumstances, will field-grown, fresh-market tomatoes continue
to enjoy a significant market share? Very definitely, according to Jahnke,
who predicts market share patterns will change very little in the foreseeable
future "unless greenhouse operators can come up with a tomato that
is firm enough and has the right texture for foodservice."
Expected to Continue
Field-grown tomatoes will continue to account for the majority of volume
and will be the driving force in the entire tomato category, Jahnke predicts.
"You may see some changes, as we've already experienced, in greenhouse-grown
product on the retail side," he explains, "but that's predominantly
more on the West Coast than in the Southwest and Northeast. Break down
the country geographically, and certain tomatoes will command a higher
market share in a particular area because of consumer preferences, but
As for flavor, past "unbiased" tomato surveys have shown many
consumers have difficulty distinguishing a fully mature, field-grown round
from a fully mature greenhouse tomato, he says. When placed side by side,
68 percent in one survey could not tell the difference. The view that
greenhouse tomatoes taste better is "a misnomer."
Greenhouse-grown product is more cosmetically friendly, Jahnke admits,
particularly cluster tomatoes. However, field-grown tomatoes also can
be cosmetically correct and look great. While not always as consistent
in shape, overall quality is a proven fact.
"As we shore up our end, meaning the repack and distribution side
of the business, there is a bright future for field-grown tomatoes,"
argues Piper. "Continued educational efforts are needed to counter
the widespread belief that mature greens do not have flavor."
Mostly in the Past
"We have been the biggest abusers in the past, meaning repackers
and distributors," he admits. "Any loss of flavor is largely
due to storing product at too cool of temperatures. We are partly to blame
for the feeling among consumers that field-grown tomatoes are inferior
in quality-both in appearance and flavor. It is important to note, however,
that, generally speaking, the course corrections have been made, and such
abuses are largely a thing of the past. As we work with consumers, we
have an opportunity to clearly demonstrate that as long as everything
is handled correctly at all levels, they can experience good quality and
flavor with field-grown tomatoes."
The challenge now is to better educate consumers how to store tomatoes
"Even though a lot of information is available warning homemakers
not to refrigerate tomatoes, most coming home from the supermarket continue
to place their tomatoes in the refrigerator versus leaving them to sit
on their counters. We still have a lot of educational work to do."
Cooney agrees with Piper that temperature abuses associated with storing
tomatoes at the repacker and distributor level is largely in the past.
Mature greens stored at the Ready Fresh Produce facilities near Vancouver,
for example, are kept at 50 to 44 degrees. Room temperatures during rolling
and grading are in the 50- to 52-degree range.
"We are a lot smarter in the way we handle tomatoes today,"
he smiles, "but improvements continue to be needed, especially on
the foodservice end. Visit fast food restaurants, as I often do, and many
are still storing their tomatoes in a cooler. They do it because they
are told to, and their quality control people are really not up to speed.
It is very important that we get the message across that no tomato will
taste good if it is stored in a cooler or refrigerator. We have an on-going
responsibility to educate. As these people respond and change their habits,
many are realizing that there is good flavor coming out of field-grown
Jahnke points out that while greenhouse-grown tomatoes tend to be more
cosmetically correct, they, too, are not immune to the influences of Mother
When cloudy and overcast outside, which sometimes is the situation, tomato
plants inside greenhouses fail to receive enough sun light for the fruit
to fully mature. This, too, can lead to imperfect product.
Competition within the tomato category is not all bad, the foodservice
provider believes. Enhancing tomato category offerings at retail benefits
every segment, whether field-grown rounds, romas and grape tomatoes or
greenhouse-grown clusters and beefsteaks, he says. They all contribute
to the overall health of tomato category, boosting sales all across the
A second important target group for field-grown tomatoes is the growing
Hispanic market, according to a 2001 study conducted in the Los Angeles
area by the California Tomato Commission. Los Angeles is the third largest
Latino city in the world. Only Mexico City and Buenos Aires have a larger
Two hundred telephone interviews with Hispanic consumers were conducted.
In addition, 25 retail outlets were interviewed to obtain directional
information only. The grocery stores questioned sell fresh tomatoes, and
over half of their customer base is Hispanic. The persons involved in
the questioning were primarily, or jointly, responsible for making decisions
about which fresh tomatoes the stores sell and how they market those tomatoes.
The study showed Los Angeles Hispanic consumers prefer regular and roma
tomatoes that are medium or light red in color, are firm and harder as
opposed to soft (for ease of chopping, dicing and slicing) and are medium-
or hand-sized. The study also showed Hispanics prefer field-grown tomatoes
over those grown in commercial hot houses.
Tomatoes are an important and regular component of the typical Latino
family's diet. Fresh tomatoes and canned or processed tomatoes are both
consumed over 3.6 times per week by more than 70 percent of the population.
Interestingly, the study showed that the majority of Los Angeles Hispanic
consumers don't know or care where (what state or country) their fresh
tomatoes are grown. Of those questioned that referenced a preference,
there was a very slight or nominal preference for Mexican fresh tomatoes
over those grown in California but not due to characteristics of the tomato.
Some Hispanic consumers simply showed a preference for products that reflect
The following are detailed findings from the survey:
Hispanic people prefer regular/round (86 percent) or roma
(73 percent) fresh tomatoes.
· 56 percent of grocers sell hot house tomatoes, but only 4 percent
of L.A. Hispanic consumers want to buy them.
LA Hispanic consumers generally do not like hot house tomatoes
because they are perceived to be: too expensive; too soft (a poor quality
for chopping, dicing and slicing); too red; or spoil too quickly.
LA Hispanic consumers shop for groceries differently than
non-LA Hispanics consumers. For LA Hispanic consumers the grocery shopping
experience is a family, and even family and neighbor, affair. Whole families
go out for a substantial part of the day to purchase groceries and do
most of their week's shopping.
Locational convenience is an important component in deciding
where they purchase fresh tomatoes.
Because they typically shop for fresh tomatoes once per week and
use them all through the week, "shelf life," or how quickly
they spoil, may be important.
· While most LA Hispanic consumers have some or excellent English
language capabilities, they show a preference for grocery stores where
employees speak Spanish (or Spanish and English) and where in-store signage
and advertising is in Spanish (or Spanish and English).
In deciding which fresh tomatoes to purchase, the survey showed the following
six decision-making factors ranked in order of importance: (1) price -
86 percent; (2) color - 73 percent; (3) hardness, firmness for cutting
of slicing - 62 percent; (4) shape -47 percent; (5) size - 39 percent;
and (6) flavor - 26 percent. Both grocers and consumers named the same
six decision-making factors in the same order of frequency.
One area of difference, as pointed out by the study, is that 56 percent
of grocers interviewed sell hot house tomatoes, but only 4 percent of
LA Hispanic consumers expressed interest in buying them.
On the other side of the coin, a 2004 consumer survey, also funded by
the California Tomato Commission, showed that many non-Hispanic shoppers
are undecided ahead of time of which tomatoes to purchase. Their decisions
are based on how the tomatoes look at the point of purchase.
One conclusion is there is a place for good looking field tomatoes at
retail. While many non-Hispanics may make their purchasing decisions on
the spot, most are looking for a good, round field tomato for their hamburgers,
just as Hispanics are looking for a certain tomato for their specific
uses. Ideally, there needs to be a tomato for every preference at the
© 2004 Columbia
Tomato Contribution Growing
The Tomato Magazine
With an average national contribution of more than 7.2 percent to total
produce department dollar sales, the tomato category packs a powerful
punch for the produce department. This season over last, the tomato category
experienced significant dollar growth, with an increase of 8.7 percent
nationally - especially significant when compared to the total produce
department dollar growth of 6.6 percent.
Further, in the Southeast, the tomato category experienced an 11.6 percent
increase in dollar growth, compared to a dollar growth of 9 percent for
the total produce department. These figures underscore the importance
of the tomato category to the produce department, in terms of future growth
and sales potential.
These market trends, as well as other information, including recent consumer
research supporting strong consumer preference for USA Grown Florida tomatoes
and scanner data showing that field (round) tomatoes are driving the category,
are continually circulated to Florida Tomato Committee's retail partners.
A closer look at sales activity in each region through March 2004 is available
in the following two reports, National Category Review: Tomato Market
Share and National Category Review: Tomato Movement. Consider these facts:
In the Southeast, field tomatoes gained category market share lost
the prior year. Field tomatoes increased 5.5 percent over last year, with
a dollar share increase of 5.3 percent. Last season (2002-2003), field
tomato category market share was down 4 percent, from prior year.
The overall tomato category in the Southeast experienced a 13.8
percent increase in pounds moved per store, per week. Contributing greatly
to this increase was the field tomato subcategory with a 25.4 percent
increase in pounds (81 pounds) moved per store on a weekly basis, and
a 23.5 percent increase in sales dollars. At the same time, TOVs (tomatoes
on the vine) in the Southeast increased 27.5 percent (19 pounds) per store
on a weekly basis. Hothouse beefsteak tomato movement decreased 26.7 percent.
In the Northeast, tomato movement at retail was gained only by
cherry/grape with an 18.4 percent increase in pounds, and in field tomatoes
with a 2.7 percent pound per store increase. While at the same time, TOV
movement experienced a slight decrease of 1.3 percent.
· In the Midwest, Field tomato movement at retail increased 27.6
© 2004 Columbia
Effect of Oxygen Enrichment in the
Root Zone on Tomato Crops
The Tomato Magazine
By Dr. Lynette Morgan
SUNTEC International Hydroponic Consultants
Tomato growers have
long focused on the effects of plant nutrition, water status and the aerial
environment on crop growth and yields. To optimize plant performance,
greenhouse tomato producers often use technology such as carbon dioxide
enrichment, heating, lighting, temperature and humidity control. While
commercial tomato crops generally end up being provided with just about
all they require for maximum fruit production, one vital aspect is often
overlooked: oxygen in the root zone.
Most growers are aware that the tomato plant's root system requires oxygen
for the process of respiration. Root respiration is an essential plant
process which releases the energy required for root growth. This, in turn,
affects the absorption of minerals from the soil or nutrient solution.
Healthy roots, supplied with sufficient oxygen, are able to selectively
absorb nutrient ions from the surrounding soil solution as required. The
metabolic energy required to drive this process of ion uptake is largely
obtained from root respiration, which, in turn, is inhibited by oxygen
starvation. In fact, there can be a net loss of nutrient ions from anaerobic
Oxygen in the Root
In soil-grown tomato crops, plant roots obtain oxygen in two ways: (1)
through the air-filled pores (oxygen is present) between the soil particles
and (2) from the plant roots as they come in contact with moisture in
the soil (falling moisture or irrigation). In soil-less, or hydroponic,
systems, the principle of oxygenation of the root zone is similar. Dissolved
oxygen can be present in the nutrient solution provided to the plant roots
and also in the air-filled pores of the growing media. In solution culture,
the roots have access to both dissolved oxygen in the nutrient solution
and can also obtain oxygen directly from the moist air surrounding the
upper layers of root system.
Many variables are known to influence how much oxygen is available to
the root system, including field factors such as compaction, soil type
and structure, amount of humus, moisture content (a saturated soil holds
little plant available oxygen), the microbe populations present and, importantly,
the amount of dissolved oxygen present in irrigation water.
The further from the soil surface measured, oxygen levels in soil tend
to rapidly decrease. Microbes also compete with plant root systems for
oxygen within the soil. Oxygen replacement around the root zone becomes
important for crops grown intensively under warmer conditions when the
demand for oxygen becomes much greater. Figures for oxygen requirements
for mature tomato plants vary with temperature: at 10o C (50º F),
root zone temperature, the plant will require approximately 46 mg plant-1
h-1 of oxygen. At 20o C (68º F), this would be 92 mg plant-1 h-1
oxygen, and at 30o C 86º F), it is over 184 mg plant-1 hour-1 of
oxygen required by the root zone to maintain normal growth and yields.
When these figures are multiplied by the density of the crop being grown,
they represent a large increase in the oxygen requirement (as the temperature
and, hence, potential growth rate rises). Therefore, it is not uncommon
for tomato crops growing in both soil and soil-less systems to suffer
from oxygen depletion, particularly under warmer growing conditions. Often
this happens as the plants mature and begin to fruit - when the roots'
oxygen requirements reach a peak. While many growers are aware of the
importance of root aeration to prevent oxygen depletion, few realize that
providing high level of oxygen to the root zone will have a further beneficial
effect on tomato crops.
Studies carried out on soil-grown tomato crops found that a reduction
in tomato top dry matter occurs when the oxygen concentration of the soil
is decreased from 21 to 6.5 or 1.5 percent. In fact this reduction was
in the magnitude of 26 and 93 percent, respectively. Another study found
a 67 percent reduction in tomato shoot growth when oxygen is reduced from
21 to 3.5 percent; it also showed that low levels of soil oxygen can cause
stomatal closure, even at optimum matrix potentials.
In soil-based trials, it also has been found that plant growth, in general,
increases with higher oxygen levels in the soil. Furthermore, a substantial
amount of research has shown that aeration or oxygenation conditions influence
ion accumulation and content of plant tissue. Much of this work has been
carried out in solution in sand cultures, but similar work in soils has
shown that this response is true for just about all root mediums.
In soil-less systems, where root volume is limited, oxygenation in the
root zone has the potential to become one of the major factors determining
plant performance, overall health and yield, but it is often overlooked
by soil-based and hydroponic producers for many crops. This is unfortunate
as many studies have shown that by super saturating the root zone with
oxygen, plant performance can be enhanced in much the same way that carbon
dioxide enrichment boosts photosynthesis and yields.
With the soil or nutrient solution typically holding only relatively small
amounts of dissolved oxygen at saturation (in the range 4 -13 ppm, depending
on temperature), this is depleted rapidly with an actively growing crop.
The best way to combat this oxygen depletion and boost oxygen levels in
the root zone is to super saturate the irrigation water/nutrient solution
with oxygen so that fresh supplies of dissolved oxygen are applied to
the plants on a regular basis. This needs to be at a level high enough
to alleviate any oxygen depletion and boost growth, development, mineral
uptake and overall plant health.
Tomato Plants and
Many studies into the effect of oxygen enrichment on tomato growth have
been carried out in soil-less systems, however, the results are also relevant
to soil-grown tomato crops. Previous studies have found that when the
root systems of tomato seedlings were subjected to dissolved oxygen levels
in the range 1 - 8 ppm, the growth of the plants at 1 -2 ppm O2 was inferior
to that at higher dissolved oxygen values irrespective of the solution
temperature [range 22 - 30o C (71-86º F)]. When the effect of super
saturation with oxygen was also examined by growing tomato plants at nutrient
solution oxygen concentrations of 5, 10, 20 or 40 ppm O2, it was found
that with 10 - 20 ppm oxygen shoot growth was better and flower clusters
were heavier and had more florets than with other concentrations.
Main root and total root lengths and the number of root hairs, length
of root hairs and length of the root hair zone in the area around the
root top were greatest at 10 - 20 ppm O2. Root hair growth above this
region was better at 20 or 40 ppm oxygen enrichment. It was also found
that the photosynthetic rate and root respiration increased with increasing
oxygen concentration. This indicates that oxygen levels well above natural
saturation levels (above 10 ppm) benefit the growth and development of
In a series of studies at Meiji University in Japan, it was found that
super saturation of a hydroponic nutrient solution with dissolved oxygen
promoted the uptake of phosphate and also increased plant height, fresh
weight of stems and leaves and root weight of tomato plants grown under
low nitrogen and phosphate conditions. It also increased the phosphorus
concentration in the sap, stems, leaves and fruits of the tomato plants.
it has also been reported that rates of uptake of nitrogen, phosphate,
potassium and water were higher in tomato plants grown in aerated (high
levels of dissolved oxygen) solutions.
Oxygen and Calcium
Uptake - BER in Tomato Crops
Oxygen deficiencies within the root zone have long been linked to a higher
occurrence of blossom end rot (BER) in hydroponic fruit. Since BER can
result in a high percentage of fruit rejected as marketable in many crops,
this is an important disorder to understand and prevent. The main plant
nutrient most affected by a lack of oxygen in the root zone is calcium
(Ca). Unlike the other major nutrients, Ca is absorbed primarily through
unsuberized root apices (growing tips). The root apex has a large energy
requirement for new cell production and growth and is, therefore, vulnerable
to oxygen stress. If an increasing number of root apices begin to suffer
from an oxygen deficiency, a shortage of calcium in the shoots becomes
more likely. This makes the development of calcium disorders such as BER
more likely and severe under oxygen depletion conditions. Thus boosting
oxygen levels in the root zone will assist with Ca transportation and
the prevention of BER, particularly under plant stress conditions predisposing
tomato crops to developing this condition.
Researchers have found that leaf Ca concentrations are lowest in tomato
fruit grown in hydroponics systems without oxygen supply by day. It was
also found that the BER incidence of tomatoes in water culture is highest
when oxygen supply to the roots is stopped at night. From this study,
it was concluded that oxygen deficiency of roots seems to be an important
factor that determines the occurrence of BER in hydroponically grown tomato
fruit; however this is also likely to be just as applicable to field-grown
Pepper (Capsicum) Crops
The benefits of oxygen enrichment of the irrigation water/nutrient solution
are not limited to tomato crops. In a study carried out by researchers
at California State University, it was found that when irrigation water
was injected with 12 percent air by volume and applied to soil-grown bell
pepper crops, a 33 percent increase in bell pepper count and a 39 percent
increase in total weight were obtained. The dry weight measurement of
the root and shoot mass indicated a statistically significant increase
in weight for plants receiving aerated water as compared to plants receiving
water only (1). These results indicate increases in dissolved oxygen of
nutrient solutions in hydroponic systems such as NFT. These benefit crop
growth and irrigation water/fertigation solutions in both soil-based and
soil-less production systems.
Oxygen in the Root
Zone and Pathogens
Attack by root rot pathogens in tomato crops can occur both in the field
and in soil-less production systems; however, in most cases, these diseases
are opportunist and will only infect and destroy already weakened root
tissue. Studies have found that after inoculation with Pythium, oxygen
enriched roots continued to remain healthy. In contrast, plants grown
in low oxygen treatments began to show the typical signs of root decay
and infection within six days of inoculating with Pythium.
The results from this study clearly demonstrate that oxygen concentration
in the root zone has a significant effect upon the development of Pythium
root rot of tomato plants and that colonization of roots by the fungus
could be reduced by root zone oxygen enrichment. It was also found that
in addition to increased severity of root rot, low and moderate oxygen
levels resulted in a significant reduction of root and shoot growth of
tomato plants, regardless of Pythium infection. Similar results have been
found for infection in both hydroponic systems and soil with Phytophthora
root rot. Again, these results indicate that low oxygen can predispose
root systems to diseases caused by root rot pathogens and that high levels
of oxygen around the root zone ensure a healthy root system which can
resist attack by opportunist pathogens.
Oxygen Enrichment in the Root Zone - Recent Trials with Tomato Crops
Super saturation of irrigation water or nutrient solutions in hydroponic
production with high levels of dissolved oxygen can be achieved with use
of various technologies, few of which, in the past, have been practical
for commercial crop production. However, recent New Zealand studies on
tomato crops have shown that high levels of oxygen enrichment can be achieved
with the use of some American-based technology. Microdiffusion Inc. of
Texas (2) has developed a unique process of supersaturating water with
dissolved oxygen - up to 40 ppm levels. Furthermore, this technology allows
the oxygen to remain in solution for many days (rather than dissipating
off into the atmosphere), making it a good prospect for horticultural
production. Having been long proven in the turf industry where oxygen
enriched irrigation water has vastly improved grass health and growth
rates, the application is being made to more areas of horticulture.
Recent tomato crop trials using the Microdiffusion technology to enrich
irrigation water fed to tomatoes grown in rockwool with a drip irrigation
system showed promising results. With the enriched irrigation solution
maintaining a dissolved oxygen level of at least 22 ppm applied at the
plant base, control solutions which maintained ambient O2 levels in solution
where often no more than 5 ppm at the dripper, even at quite moderate
solution temperatures of 22 - 24o C (71-75ºF). This has potential
to lead to oxygen deficiency in the root zone, given the limited nature
of the rooting media and high requirement for oxygen by the root systems.
Although rockwool grow slabs do initially have a high air filled porosity,
the volume of roots at plant maturity, combined with the limited nature
of the root zone (often 3 - 4 plants per slab), mean that low levels of
oxygen (as low as 10 percent) have been recorded in the lower regions
of rockwool slabs and propagation blocks.
Supplying high levels of dissolved oxygen via the irrigation system on
a frequent basis assists in preventing oxygen depletion. This is particularly
true during the warmest part of the day. This also provides additional
oxygen levels above what would normally be present in a well aerated growing
The results of this trial produced an increase in the average tomato fruit
size from 108 g (s.e 2.58) per fruit in the control, non-enriched treatment,
to 139 g (s.e 2.65) per fruit from the oxygen enriched irrigation regime.
Furthermore, when fruit quality assessment was carried out, it was found
that the oxygen-enriched plants produced fruit with a higher brix and
percentage dry weight than the control or non-enriched plants. Oxygen-
enriched plants produced an average brix level of 5.8 (s.e 0.13) compared
to 5.07 (s.e 0.05) in the non-enriched control plots. Percentage dry matter
in the fruit increased from 4.2 (s.e 0.392) in the control, non-enriched
plants to 4.8 (s.e 0.33) in the oxygen-enriched plants. This indicates
that by boosting oxygen levels in the root zone, fruit size (hence, total
yield) as well as the compositional quality of the fruit is improved significantly.
When a similar trial was carried out to examine the effect of oxygen enrichment
of the irrigation solution on BER occurrence of tomato crops, it was found
that enrichment of the solution to 20 - 22 ppm of dissolved oxygen applied
several times a day to rockwool-grown tomato crops resulted in a significant
reduction of BER occurrence. Tomato plants irrigated with oxygen enriched
nutrient solution had less than 1 percent BER occurrence; the control
plants, irrigated with non-enriched nutrient, had over 7 percent BER occurrence
throughout the trial, much of which was severe
Furthermore, these crops, purposely stressed by growing at a moderately
high EC level to assist with BER development, produced a significantly
higher yield from an increased fruit size in the oxygen-enriched plots.
Average fruit weight increased from 82.8 g per fruit in the non-enriched,
osmotically stressed plants to 113.6 g per fruit in the oxygen- enriched
treatment. So it appears from these trials that oxygen enrichment of the
root zone, using irrigation water or nutrient solution as a carrier of
the dissolved oxygen both boosts yields and assists tomato plants to withstand
and produce well under moderate levels of osmotic stress. This probably
results from the plants supplied with oxygen enrichment having a root
system better able to take up water and nutrients while under osmotic
(or potentially other) stress conditions.
BER is a common problem in both field-grown and greenhouse tomatoes, and
one which many growers battle, especially under warmer growing conditions.
Its occurrence has often been attributed to certain environmental conditions
such as high temperatures, high humidity levels, high EC or salinity in
the root zone, deficient irrigation, root disease pathogens and nutrient
imbalances which restrict nutrient uptake and transpiration problems within
the plant. BER is well known to be linked to plant root water uptake,
as calcium, (the contributing factor in BER occurrence) travels within
the xylem vessels or transpiration stream within the plant. Thus oxygen
enrichment in the root zone, which assist with both water and nutrient
uptake (particularly calcium uptake), appears to be one way to limit BER
occurrence in crops prone to this problem.
Mineral analysis of the foliage of oxygen-enriched tomato crops compared
to non-enriched control crops (Table 1) shows that nitrogen, phosphorus,
potassium, sulfur, calcium and iron all increased in the plant foliage
with oxygen enrichment in the root zone as compared to the control plants
which received no oxygen enriched irrigation. Magnesium levels in the
oxygen-enriched plants are likely to be lower than the control (non-oxygen-enriched
plants) as there is an inhibitory effect on magnesium uptake when high
levels of potassium are accumulated in the foliage (oxygen-enriched potassium
levels are higher than the control).
Table 1 - foliar mineral
levels from oxygen enriched and non-enriched tomato crops.
Element Oxygen enriched Control Treatment (non enriched)
Nitrogen (%) 4.7 4.5
Phosphorus (%) 0.70 0.54
Potassium (%) 5.7 4.7
Sulphur (%) 2.8 1.4
Calcium (%) 4.03 2.71
Magnesium (%) 0.45 0.57
Sodium (%) 0.06 0.06
Iron (mg/Kg) 133 131
Table 1. shows that calcium levels are much higher in the oxygen-enriched
treatment, indicating that this treatment does have a positive effect
on calcium uptake and transportation within the plant. This is also shown
in the lower levels of BER, a calcium related disorder, in the high oxygen
While the results of the oxygen enrichment trial on greenhouse tomato
plants are not surprising, many researchers have reported significant
positive effects of super saturation of nutrient solutions or irrigation
water with high levels of dissolved oxygen. This suggests that tomato
plant performance can be boosted further with the use of the appropriate
technology. Obtaining super saturation of oxygen within water for crop
growth has proven to be highly beneficial for many crops, and the technology
is now available to growers. Undoubtedly, in the future we are going to
see tomatoes and other crops enriched with oxygen in the root zone in
the same way carbon dioxide enrichment is commonly used in the greenhouse
environment to boost growth and yields.
References and Information
(1) "A Pilot
Study on the Impact of Air Injected into Water Delivered Through Subsurface
Drip Irrigation Tape on the Growth and Yield of Bell Peppers;" The
Centre for Irrigation Technology (CIT), California Agricultural Technology
Institute (CATI), California State University. Fresno, USA.
(2) Greg Archambeau,
Microdiffusion Inc., 580 Commerce Street, Suite 150, Southlake, TX 76092;
phone (817) 488-4500; fax (817) 488-1900; www.microdiffusion.com; firstname.lastname@example.org.
A full reference list
for this article can be obtained from Dr. Morgan by contacting her at
© 2004 Columbia
Get Genetic 'Boost' Under Sustainable Ag System
The Tomato Magazine
Tomatoes grown in a sustainable agricultural system using a legume cover
crop as fertilizer had better disease resistance and lived longer than
tomatoes grown on black polyethylene mulch with chemical fertilizer, Agricultural
Research Service scientists report.
Based on a five-year sustainable agriculture study, the results are published
in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
ARS is the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research
The scientists showed that at least 10 genes in the leaves of tomatoes
grown in the sustainable system were turned on longer, or "over-expressed,"
allowing those tomatoes to live longer than tomatoes grown on the plastic
mulch. These "over-expressed" genes may respond to signals emanating
from the specific ratio of nitrogen, carbon and other elements provided
by the cover crop.
The researchers compared the two tomato cultivation systems at the ARS
Henry A. Wallace Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center. In one
system, tomatoes were grown under the traditional method of black polyethylene
mulch with chemical fertilizer, a common planting regimen in the Middle
Atlantic and Southeastern states.
In the other planting system, the scientists grew tomatoes in the sustainable
system, in which the plants received half the chemical fertilizer and
fungicide applied in the traditional system. The sustainable system relied
on hairy vetch-a nitrogen-fixing legume cover crop-to provide soil nutrients
and some natural leaf disease protection.
The scientists also believe the cover crop allows the tomato root system
to produce increased levels of cytokinins, a class of plant hormones that
delay senescence and let the plant live longer.
With the genes identified that impart disease tolerance and longevity,
researchers may be able to use that knowledge to breed plants that are
even more highly responsive to sustainable production systems.
The research was conducted by Autar K. Mattoo and Vinod Kumar of the ARS
Vegetable Laboratory, Beltsville; James D. Anderson of the ARS Plant Sciences
Institute, Beltsville; and Douglas J. Mills, now at Georgia State University,
© 2004 Columbia