Tomato Production Guide for Florida: Crop Establishment ( Publisher's URL )

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Tomato Production Guide for Florida: Crop Establishment
Physical Description:
Fact sheet
Hochmuth, George
University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
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Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Melanie Mercer.
Publication Status:
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"August 1997"
General Note:
"SP 214"

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University of Florida Institutional Repository
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University of Florida
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All rights reserved by the submitter.
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1.This document is a chapter of SP 214, last printed in 1990 as Circular 98 C. SP 214, Tomato Production Guide for Florida, last printed in 1990 as Circular 98 C, is a publication of the Commercial Vegetable Guide Series, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and A gricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Publication date: August 1997. For more information about how to order the complete print document, SP 2 14, call UF/IFAS Distribution at (352) 392-1764. Please visit the FAIRS Website at The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide resea rch, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin. For information on obtaining other extension publications, contact your county Cooperative Extension Servi ce office. Florida Cooperative Extension Service / Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences / University of Florida / Christine Taylor Waddill, Dean. 2.G.J. Hochmuth, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, and C.S. Vavrina, associate professor, Southwest Florida-REC, Im mokalee, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), University of Florida, Gainesville FL 32611. The Tomat o Production Guide for Florida is edited by G.J. Hochmuth, professor, Horticultural Sciences Department, IFAS. SP-214Tomato Production Guide for Florida: Crop Establishment1G.J. Hochmuth and C.S. Vavrina2Florida tomatoes can be grown using both directseeding and transplanting techniques (Table 1). Crops develop faster from transplants so that direct-seeding is rarely used for tomatoes today. Nearly all tomatoes are transplanted using containerized transplants.Transplantin g Containerized transplants are placed in the field with the growing medium attached to the roots. Therefore plants suffer less transplant set-back than bare-root plants, resulting in more uniform stands. Also, the plants are less likely to wilt down onto the plastic mulch where they might be burned on sunny days by the hot plastic. Furthermore, semi-automatic transplanting machines require the presence of a small root/soil ball to function properly. When transplanting, especially in cool soils, plant establishment might be enhanced by the use of small amounts of starter fertilizer solutions. Any fertilizer high in soluble P, such as 10-52-17, used at the rate of three to four lb per 50 gallons of transplant water often stimulates early root development. Ammoniated monopotassium phosphate solutions have performed well in recent research. Field studies have been conducted testing depth of transplanting in the mulched bed. Results showed that better yields can result if the containerized transplants are placed in the soil at least up to the cotyledonary node or slightly deeper. Deeper planting probably places the root ball in more moist soil so that root system growth is enhanced.Table 1. Crop establishment information for tomato in Florida. Plantin g dates North FloridaJul y -Au g ./Feb.-Mar. Central FloridaAu g .-Sept/Jan.-Feb. South FloridaAu g Jan. Seedin g information Distance between rows (in)48-72 Distance between plants (in)12-24 Seedin g depth (in) 0.5 0.75 Seed per acre, field (lb) 1-2 Seed per acre, transplant 0.25 0.5 Da y s to maturit y from seed 90-115 Da y s to maturit y from transplant 70 90 Plant population (per acre)4840z zStandard tomato spacin g 18 inches in row, 6 feet between bed centers.


Tomato Production Guide for Florida: Crop Establishment Page 2 February 1998Containerized TransplantsThe best containerized transplants are produced in the multi-cell or tray-pack system. Trays are made of plastic or styrofoam and produce a seedling root ball of various shapes and sizes. Little information exists on the most appropriate cell size to use. Larger transplants have been shown to produce earlier yields, but are more expensive to produce. The most economical and most manageable size for tomato seems to be a cell size of approximately one to 1 inches square. Containerized transplants should be produced in a greenhouse where growing conditions can be carefully controlled. Sterile trays and sterile, soilless mix (usually a peat/perlite/vermiculite mix) should be used. Filling and seeding trays is time-consuming and can be mechanized by various tray-filling and vacuum-seeding machines. Often seeding accuracy can be optimized by use of coated or pelletized seed. Once seeded and in the greenhouse, careful attention must be given to the transplant crop for water needs, fertility, and pest control. The nitrogen fertilization program used in the greenhouse to grow the tomato transplant has an effect on the performance of the tomato crop in the field. Nitrogen concentration of the nutrient solution should be about 45 ppm for spring-grown transplants and 30 ppm for fall-grown plants. Transplants grown with excessive N will produce lower yields. More information on containerized production is available from Florida Cooperative Extension Service Circular 302, An Introduction to the Production of Containerized Vegetable Transplants.IrrigationAll vegetable crops require adequate and timely irrigation and, where natural rainfall is lacking, supplemental irrigation must be made. The subsurface (seep) irrigation system, is the least costly method of irrigation because of low capital investments, but it has a low water-use efficiency and is not available in all tomato production areas in the state. Overhead irrigation is a very satisfactory method of irrigation for both mulched or nonmulched crops and requires less pumped water than the seep method. Salt injury is less likely on overhead-irrigated than seepirrigated tomatoes because water movement is mostly downward with sprinkler irrigation. Often overhead irrigation is required in conjunction with seep, especially during hot, dry periods during which wetting of the beds by seep is difficult. There are several types of overhead irrigation systems including traveling guns, center pivots, movable pipe, and solid-set pipe. One disadvantage of overhead irrigation is the increased potential for spreading foliar disease organisms due to splashing water. Drip irrigation has many merits and is becoming more popular for vegetable production. These merits include reduced water usage, the capability of fertilizing through the system, possible higher yields from a more constant water supply, and reduced foliar disease problems in comparison to overhead irrigation. Reduced water usage is a very important attribute and is the primary reason for drip system usage on farms located near metropolitan areas where water is in short supply. Drip irrigation might be used satisfactorily in combination with other methods, particularly the seep method. Here, one attraction is the capability of providing the fertilizer through the drip system in small amounts through the season. Therefore, a grower could eliminate, or reduce the amounts of soluble, dry fertilizer in the bed at planting. This bed fertilizer can contribute to soluble salt damage to seedlings and might be lost to leaching. Crop evapotranspiration rates have been estimated for tomatoes in southwest Florida (Table 2). Irrigation amounts should be scheduled to meet the crop evaporation needs taking into account any application inefficiencies in the specific irrigation system.


Tomato Production Guide for Florida: Crop Establishment Page 3 February 1998 Figure 1. Young tomato plants with newly-placed stakes in Manatee county. Table 2 Estimated crop ET values for drip-irrigated tomato plants in southwest Florida expressed in gallons per acre per day for transplants set at different periods for six-foot bed centers (7260 linear bed feet per acre).zDays after transplanting Month of transplanting Aug.Sept.Oct.Jan.Feb. Mar. gal. per acre per day 0-20100010001000600800900 21-40240022002000180020002200 41-60360032002200320038004000 61-80320027002000400046004600 81-100210018001800360040004000zFrom G.A. Clark and C.D. Stanley. Water requirements for drip irrigated tomato production in southwest Florida. Drip Tips, Gulf Coast Research and Educaton Center Extension Report BRA-1993-01 (1993).StakingThe stake tomato culture system (Figure 1) is used to provide tomato fruits higher in quality, and easier to harvest, than ground tomato. Wooden stakes approximately one inch square and 48 inches long are driven into the ground. A stake is driven into the bed halfway between each plant (or alternating plants) two to three weeks after transplanting. Metal stakes are used in Dade county where they are driven into the oolitic limestone. Pruning and tying of plants begins three to four three weeks after transplanting. Young plants are pruned by removing one or two bottom-most suckers or branches, then the plants are tied. Plastic twine is used because it can easily be removed from the field by burning. The twine is wrapped around each stake and past both sides of the tomato plant to provide vertical support. Tying is usually done three to four times during the season, but pruning only once. Following the harvest period, the plants are chemically desiccated and twine burned from the plants and stakes by tractor-drawn propane burners. Some attempts have been made to burn the mulch as well. However, the burn is usually not adequate and never destroys the buried mulch edges. As a result, it is recommended that the mulch be cut down the center and edges lifted free of soil, followed by hand removal. These operations can also be mechanized where the mulch is lifted from the soil and compacted or baled. The stakes, once cleared of twine and plants, can be removed by mechanical stake pullers. The initial investment required for these machines makes them attractive only to growers of more than 75 acres. Before re-use, stakes should be disinfested of disease organisms, by steaming or fumigation with methyl bromide. Research has shown that steaming under a tarp for one to two hours at 200 (F was effective in removing Fusarium.


Tomato Production Guide for Florida: Crop Establishment Page 4 February 1998Frost ProtectionPresently, the most effective method of frost protection is overhead irrigation during the freeze period. Timely and complete coverage is required. Sprinklers should be placed so that 50 percent effective coverage is ensured. Sprinklers should be turned on when the temperature falls to 32 (F as measured at plant height in the lowest area in field. The nozzles should make one revolution per minute with the amount of water applied dependent on temperature and wind conditions. They should be left on until the temperature rises and ice begins to melt, or until the wet-bulb temperature rises above 32 (F. Another possible method of frost protection might be row covers, hoop-supported polyethylene or nonsupported polyester or polypropylene materials. Research in northern states has shown substantial frost protection from these covers and they may be useful in Florida as well. Application of the covers can be mechanized and they can be reused.