by W. Nyamufukudza
Cultural Practices have been used for many years to improve productivity.
Below we look at how we can use some of these practices to improve tomato quality and quantity.
Mulched gardens are known to grow healthier plants, have fewer weeds, and resist drought than unmulched ones. Mulching is the practice of using a covering, as of straw, compost, or plastic sheeting, spread on the ground around plants to prevent excessive evaporation or erosion, enrich the soil, inhibit weed growth. It is done where temperatures are normally high. It prevents excess evaporation. It is not encouraged in humid areas because it encourages disease occurrence.
Mulching can assist in the following ways:
• It regulates temperature.
• It suppresses weeds.
• Improve infiltration and prevent splashing.
• May supply nutrients to the soil and the structure is improved if organic matter is used.
2. Pruning and dis-budding
Dis-budding is the removal of side shoots to remain with a single main stem. Pruning is
the removal of side branches and other undesirable parts e.g diseased leaves. While this method has been shown to be effective in other areas in the world with cooler temperatures. This method is encouraged in cooler areas to allow penetration of sunlight.
These practices are not always recommended in warmer climates like those in Zimbabwe. Research has shown an overall reduction in yield after pruning especially for determinate varieties. Pruning can increase incidences of fruit cracking and misshaped fruits. There are high incidences of diseases on cut surfaces
especially bacterial canker. This method can be very labor intensive.
Tomatoes are susceptible to folia diseases, root nematodes and several soil borne diseases. Grow once in three years on any field. Do not rotate with solanaceous crops like potatoes, tobacco, egg plant, chilies. Tomatoes can be rotated with weeds like Mexican marigold, rods grass (Katambora).