Edited by G.J. Hochmuth
Commercial Vegetable Guide Series
Fli na Cout traiv\ Ext nsnIio Sr\ in ie/l iiiLit o Fo A di and Agit ulltirl Sci ,n es/L' \ ersiiy of Florida/John T. Woeste, Dean
Circular 98 C
S12 Nematode control
Contents Disease control
2 Tomato Cultivars
3 "For trial" cultivars
Cherry tomato cultivars
4 Soil preparation
11 Pest Management
Harvesting & Handling
18 Maturity at harvest
21 Storage conditions
G.J. Hochmuth. Associate Professor and Extension
Vegetable Crops Specialist: D.N. Maynard, Professor
and Extension Vegetable Crops Specialist; and M.
Sherman, former Associate Vegetalle Crops
Department, IFAS, Univ\ersity of Florida 32611.
Tomatoes are grown on nearly 50,000 acres (Table
1) and comprise nearly one-third of the total farm
crop value of vegetables in Florida. Tomatoes are
grown in several major production areas in the state
(Figure 1). The newest area of tomato production,
comprising almost 2000 acres, is in the Quincy
(Gadsden county) area of north Florida.
Production practices vary considerably among the
major production areas. Almost 100 percent of the
tomato crop in Florida is grown on polyethylene-
mulched beds. The main winter production occurs
in Dade county on Rockdale soils. The crop is grown
on the ground (without stakes). Most tomatoes in the
southwest, Palmetto-Ruskin, and in the Ft. Pierce-
Pompano areas are grown on sandy soil using staked
culture and subsurface irrigation. Production areas
in Gadsden county have heavier soils and almost all
crops are grown with stakes and drip irrigation.
Table 1.Fresh Tomatoes: Acreage by production areas, Florida, 1985-86
Yield Per Acre Production
Areas Acres Harvestea 25-lb Cartons 1,000 Cartons
West, Norn, and
North Central 2,650 1,450 3.842
Palmetto-Ruskin 17,250 1,350 23.285
Ft. Pierce-Pompano 4,050 1,470 5,953
Southwest 12,650 1,430 18,090
Dade 11,600 753 8,735
State 48,200 1,243 59.904
1Florida Agricultural Slatlstics, Vegetaole Summary 1986. Florida Crop and
Livestock Reporting Service, 1222 Woodward Street, Orlando, FL 32803.
II Ft. Pierce-Pompano
V North Central
Figure 1. Principal tomato producing areas.
by D.N. Maynard
Cultivar selection is one of the most important
management decisions made by the grower, and
should be done several months before planting.
Failure to select the most suitable cultivar or
cultivars may lead to loss of yield or market
The following characteristics should be considered
in selection of tomato cultivars for use in Florida:
Yield The cultivar selected should have the
potential to produce yields at least equivalent to
cultivars already grown. The average yield in Florida
is currently about 1100 25-pound cartons per acre.
The potential yield of cultivars in use should be
higher than the average yield, or have other
desirable characteristics such as earlier harvests,
and/or fruit size.
Disease Resistance Cultivars selected for use
in Florida must have resistance to Fusarium wilt
(Race 1 and 2), Verticillium wilt, gray leaf spot, and
some tolerance to bacterial soft rot. Available
resistance to other diseases may be important in cer-
Horticultural Quality Plant habit, jointlessness
and fruit size, shape, color, firmness, smoothness,
and resistance to defects should all be considered in
Adaptability Successful tomato cultivars must
perform well under the range of environmental con-
ditions usually encountered in the district or on the
Market Acceptability The tomato produced
must have characteristics acceptable to the packer,
shipper, wholesaler, retailer, and consumer. In-
cluded among these qualities are pack out, fruit size,
fruit shape, ripening ability, firmness, and flavor.
Recommended tomato cultivars for various pro-
duction regions are listed in Table 2. A description
of these and other cultivars follows.
Duke is an early, determinate, jointless hybrid
developed by Petoseed. Fruit are large (5.5-6.5
ounces), green shouldered, and moderately flat-
round shaped. Plants are resistant to Verticillium
wilt, Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), gray leaf spot, and
Alternaria stem canker.
Flora-Dade is a midseason to late, jointless, deter-
minate, open-pollinated cultivar developed by IFAS.
Fruit are medium-large (4.5-5.5 ounces), green
shouldered, and round. Plants are resistant to Ver-
ticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), and gray
Table 2. Tomato cultivars for Florida.
Dade East Palmetto- North North and
County Coast Southwest Ruskin Central West Florida
Duke Duke Duke Duke Flora-Dade Pacific
FTE12 Sunny FET12 FTE 12 Pacific Sunny
SummerFlavor Hayslip Sunny
Brand 5000 Pacific
Horizon Horizon Horizon Freedom All Star All Star
Independence Harizon Freedom Horizon
SIFAS, seed industry, and grower trial results indicate good potential. Small
plot evaluation should be made to determine local adaptation.
Freedom from Abbott and Cobb is an early
midseason, determinate, and jointless hybrid. Fruit
are large, deep-globe shaped, and smooth. Resistant:
Verticillium wilt, and Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2).
FTE 12 is an early to midseason, jointless, deter-
minate hybrid developed by Petoseed for members
of the Florida Tomato Exchange. Moderately large
fruit (4.8-5.6 ounces) have green shoulders and are
flat-round shaped. Plants are resistant to Verticillium
wilt, Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), gray leaf spot, and
Alternaria stem canker.
Hayslip is a late, jointless, moderately large-vined,
determinate, open-pollinated cultivar developed by
IFAS. Large fruit (5.0-6.0 ounces) are slightly ridged,
have deep-green shoulders, are a deep-globe shape
and have smooth blossom ends. Plants are resistant
to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), and
gray leaf spot.
Pacific from Asgrow is a large, smooth-globe,
green-shouldered jointed determinate hybrid. Resis-
tant: Alternaria, Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), Ver-
ticillium wilt (Race 1), and gray leaf spot.
Sunny is a midseason, jointed, determinate, hybrid
developed by Asgrow. Fruit are large (5.0-6.0
ounces), flat-globular in shape, and green
shouldered. Plants are resistant to Verticillium wilt,
Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), Alternaria stem canker,
and gray leaf spot.
"For trial" cultivars
All Star from Petoseed is a midseason, jointed,
determinate hybrid. Fruits are large, globe-shaped,
and green-shouldered. Resistant: Verticillium wilt,
Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), gray leaf spot, and
Alternaria stem canker.
Horizon is an early, jointless, small-vined, deter-
minate, open-pollinated cultivar developed by IFAS.
Slightly oblate-globe shaped fruit are large size
(4.8-6.5 ounces) and have light-green shoulders. The
plants have a concentrated fruit set. Plants are resis-
tant to Verticillium wilt, Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and
2), and gray leaf spot.
Independence is an early to midseason, jointless,
determinate hybrid developed by Abbott & Cobb.
Large fruit have green shoulders and are deep-globe
shaped. Plants are resistant to Verticillium wilt, and
Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2).
Summer Flavor Brand 5000 from Abbott and
Cobb. A mid-season, jointed, determinate hybrid
with large, oblate fruit. Resistant: Verticillium wilt,
Fusarium wilt (Race 1 and 2), and root-knot
Cherry tomato cultivars
Cherry Grande is a jointed, determinate hybrid
developed by Petoseed. Fruit are deep red, green
shouldered, globe shaped, and have an average
diameter of 11A-11 inches.
Castlette is a jointless, medium-vined, deter-
minate hybrid developed by Castle Seed. Bright-red
fruit are green shouldered, deep globe shaped, and
about 11 inches in diameter.
Red Cherry Large is a jointed, indeterminate,
open-pollinated cultivar developed by Petoseed.
Green shouldered, deep-globe fruit are about 11
inches in diameter.
by G.J. Hochmuth
The field should be plowed and disked to bury old
crop refuse. Plowing reduces disease organism carry
over. A soil test should be used to determine lime
and fertilizer requirements. Lime, if required, is
broadcast and incorporated followed by bedding,
fumigating, and fertilizing. Bedding can be ac-
complished by various means including a bed press,
bedding disk, or a double-disk hiller followed by a
board to level the bed tops. The bed press should be
used where plastic mulch will be laid.
Various types of mulches are available for use,
depending on the season. Generally, black
polyethylene mulch (Fig. 2a, 2b) is used except for
plantings made in the fall when temperatures are
high. The use of white (Fig. 3), gray, or black mulch
with a white band painted over the middle is recom-
mended f9r early fall plantings to reduce high bed
surface temperatures which might desiccate young
seedlings. Advantages of using plastic mulches in-
clude increased early and total yield, improved weed
control, improved moisture conservation, better fer-
tilizer conservation, and better fruit quality.
Figure 2b. Tomato production on black polyethylene
mulch in Homestead.
Figure 2a. Tomato production on black polyethylene
mulch in Naples.
A sometimes-overlooked crop protection aid is that
of crop windbreaks (Fig. 4). Several windbreak crops
are available to Florida tomato growers including
sugar cane, rye, and sometimes oats. Care should be
taken to choose a windbreak crop that is adapted to
a specific growing region. Tomato cropping patterns
often dictate hoW close the windbreaks will be placed
to each other. In general, however, close windbreaks
(even between every row), give the best wind pro-
tection and might even provide some moderation of
the plant's micro-environment promoting faster crop
development during cool weather. Establishment of
a windbreak crop in the previous fall will ensure
enough growth to become effective as a windbreak
by spring tomato planting time. Tomato beds can be
established in the windbreak crop by rototilling the
On seep-irrigated land, windbreaks are usually
planted on field-ditch banks, but can also be planted
in crop harvesting roadways. When the windbreak
is removed, ensure that this plant material does not
clog irrigation ditches. Cereal crop windbreaks be-
tween beds can be removed by rototilling.
Prior to each cropping season, soil tests should be
conducted to determine fertilizer needs. Obtain an
IFAS soil sample kit from the local agricultural Ex-
tension agent for this purpose. Commercial soil
testing laboratories also are available. Routine soil
testing will help reduce overfertilization which
reduces farming efficiency and increases the risk of
The crop nutrient requirements of nitrogen,
phosphorus and potassium (designated in fertilizers
as N-PO2-K20) in Tables 3 and 4 represent the op-
timum amounts of these nutrients needed for max-
imum production. A portion of this required nutri-
tion will be supplied by the native soil and by
previous crop residue. The remainder of the nutrient
requirements will be supplied by fertilizer, and this
amount must be determined by soil testing.
Therefore, nutrient amounts in these tables are ap-
plied as. fertilizers only to soils testing very low in
the specific plant nutrients. Automatic use of the
amounts of nutrients in the tables without a soil test
may result in wasted fertilizer, crop damage from salt
injury, reduced yields and quality, and a risk to the
environment if fertilizer leaches to the watertable.
Figure 4. Rye windbreaks in a tomato field in
Figure 3. Tomato production using white mulch.
The optimum pH range for tomatoes is between 6.0
and 6.5. Fusarium wilt problems are reduced by
liming within this range, but it is not advisable to
raise the pH higher than 6.5 because of reduced
Calcium and magnesium levels should be corrected
according to the soil test. If both elements are low,
broadcast and incorporate dolomitic limestone.
Where calcium alone is deficient, lime with "hi-cal"
limestone. Adequate calcium is important for re-
ducing the severity of blossom-end rot. On limestone
soils, add 30-40 pounds per acre of magnesium in the
basic fertilizer mix. It is best to apply lime several
months prior to planting. However, if time is short,
it is better to apply lime any time before planting
than not to apply it at all. Whefe the pH does not
need modification, but magnesium is low, apply
magnesium sulfate or potassium-magnesium sulfate
with the fertilizer.
Table 3.Fertlllty recommendations for non-mulched tomatoes grown on iri-
gated soils testing very low in phosphorus and potassium
Nutrient requirements Supplemental applications
Ibs/A Ibs/A Number of
Soil N-P205-K20 N-P205-K20 Applications
Irrigated Mineral 160-160-160 30-0-20 0-4
Marl 120-160-160 30-0-20 0-3
Rockdalei 90-150-120 0-3
1A portion of the phosphorus (25 pounds per acre) in the super or triple
super form should be placed in the drill or under the plug-mix to supply an
adequate amount for germinating seedings or transplants.
For virgin, sandy soils, or sandy soils where a
proven need exists, a general guide for fertilization
is the addition of micronutrients (in pounds per acre)
manganese 3, copper 2, iron 5, zinc 2, boron
- 2, and molybdenum .02. Micronutrients may be
supplied from oxides, sulfates, or from fritted trace
elements. If fritted trace elements are desired,
however, be sure to verify with the fertilizer dealer
that the trace elements are actually fritted. Growers
using manganese-, zinc-, and copper-containing
fungicides need to consider these sources when
calculating fertilizer micronutrient needs. More in-
formation on micronutrient use is available (9).
Table 4.Fertility recommendations for mulched tomatoes on irrigated soils
testing very low in phosphorus and potassium.
Numberof Ibs/A2 Ibs/A Numberof
Soil expected harvests N-P205.K20 Applications
Mineral 2-3 160-160-160 30-0-20 0-2
Rockdale 2-3 130-220-260 30-0-20 0-2
1Sidedressing to replenish nitrogen and potassium can be accomplished by
the use ot a liquid fertilizer infection wheel.
2Approximately 7200 linear bed feet of crop per acre (43,560 square feet).
Properly diagnosed micronutrient deficiencies can
often be corrected by foliar applications of the
specific nutrient. For most micronutrients, a very
fine line exists between sufficiency and toxicity.
Foliar application of major nutrients (nitrogen,
phosphorus, or potassium) has not been shown to be
beneficial where proper soil fertility is present. For
more information on foliar micronutrient fertilization
of tomatoes, consult the Commercial Vegetable Fer-
tilization Guide, Circular 225-C.
Nonmulched Crops Apply all phosphorus and
micronutrients, and up to one-half of the nitrogen
and potassium prior to planting and incorporate by
disking or rototilling. Increased fertilizer efficiency
can be realized by a "modified broadcast" method
where the needed fertilizer is broadcast in the bed
area only, rather than over the entire field. For rates,
see Table 3. Incorporation will place some fertilizer
near the transplant root or germinating seed. The re-
maining nitrogen and potassium fertilizer can be
banded in an area on both sides of the row just ahead
of developing root tips through the early part of the
Several supplemental sidedress band applications
of nitrogen and potassium may be needed after
leaching rainfall. These are applied on the bed
shoulders just ahead of the expanding root system,
until 2 to 4 weeks before the end of harvest period.
A shallow cultivator sweep will cover the fertilizer
and help correct bed erosion. Liquid fertilizer can be
used by knifing it into the soil, using caution to avoid
Strip mulch. The strip mulch system uses a nar-
row 10- to 12-inch strip of polyethylene mulch laid
over a fertilizer band to help reduce fertilizer
leaching. With the strip mulch system, broadcast and
incorporate all of the phosphorus and micronutrients
with 20 percent of the nitrogen and potassium. The
remaining nitrogen and potassium should be applied
in a band 2 to 3 inches deep and covered with the
mulch strip in an inverted "U" fashion so that the
highest point is directly over the fertilizer band.
Tomatoes can then be planted in a single row to one
side of the strip. No additional fertilizer is usually re-
quired although sidedressings may be needed after
leaching rains. This system is less costly than the full-
bed mulch system, but does not have all the advan-
tages such as fumigant and fertilizer efficiency, weed
control, and growth enhancement.
Full-Bed Mulch with Seep Irrigation. Under this
system, the crop may be supplied with all of its soil
requirements before the mulch is applied (Table 4).
It is difficult to correct a deficiency after mulch ap-
plication, although new fertilizing equipment, such
as a liquid fertilizer injection wheel, should facilitate
sidedressing through the mulch. Current IFAS
research seeks to determine precise uses of the in-
jection wheel. The injection wheel will also be useful
for replacing fertilizer under the used plastic mulch
for double-cropping systems.
A general sequence of operations for the full-bed
plastic mulch system is:
1. Land preparation, including development of ir-
rigation and drainage systems, and liming of the
2. Application of "starter" fertilizer or "in-bed"
mix. This should comprise only 10 to 15 percent
of the total nitrogen and potassium seasonal re-
quirement and all of the phosphorus and
micronutrients. Starter fertilizer can be broadcast
over the entire area prior to bedding and then in-
corporated. During bedding, the fertilizer will be
gathered into the bed area. An alternative is to
use a "modified broadcast" technique.
3. Formation of beds, incorporation of herbicide,
and application of mole cricket bait.
4. Application of remaining fertilizer. The remain-
ing 85 to 90 percent of the nitrogen and potassium
is placed in narrow bands 9 to 10 inches to each
side of the plant row in furrows 1 to 1V2 inches
deep. Placing the fertilizer in the grooves allows
it to be in contact with moist soil. Bed presses are
modified to provide the groove. Only water-
soluble nutrient sources should be used for the
banded fertilizer. A mixture of potassium nitrate,
calcium nitrate, and ammonium nitrate has
proven successful. Try to keep the level of am-
moniacal nitrogen at no more than 30 to 50 per-
cent to ensure ample amounts of nitrate-nitrogen
available to plants.
5. Fumigation, pressing of beds, and mulching. This
should be done in one operation, if possible. Be
sure that the mulching machine seals the edges
of the mulch adequately with soil to prevent
There is equipment that will do most of the opera-
tions in steps 4 and 5 above in one pass over the field.
Water management with the seep irrigation system
is critical to successful crops. Maintain the water
level at 15 to 18 inches below bed surface. Do not
fluctuate the water table since this leads to increased
leaching losses of plant nutrients. Additional in-
formation on fertilizer and water management for
full-bed, plastic mulch, seep-irrigated tomatoes is
Mulched Culture with Overhead Irrigation. For
the sandy soils, maximum production has been at-
tained by broadcasting 100 percent of the fertilizer
in a swath 3 to 4 feet wide and incorporating prior
to bedding and mulching (8). Where soluble salt in-
jury has been a problem, a combination of broadcast
and banding should be used. Incorporate 30 percent
to 40 percent of the nitrogen and potassium and 100
percent of the phosphorus and micronutrients into
the bed by rototilling. The remaining nitrogen and
potassium is applied in bands 6 to 8 inches to the
sides of the seed or transplant and 2 to 4 inches deep
to place it in contact with moist soil. Normally, on
sandy soils, enough irrigation water enters the
mulched beds through plant holes so that perfora-
tion of plastic is not required. Perforation is needed
on soils such as Rockdale where lateral movement
of water through the soil is negligible. On Rockdale
soil, a small amount of superphosphate (25 pounds
phosphorus per acre) should be applied in the drill
area to support germinating seedlings or transplants.
Mulched Production with Drip Irrigation.
Where drip irrigation is used, drip tape or tubes
should be laid 2 to 3 inches below the bed soil sur-
face prior to mulching. This placement helps protect
tubes from mice and cricket damage. The drip system
is an excellent tool with which to fertilize the crop.
Where drip irrigation is used, before planting apply
all phosphorus and micronutrients, and 20 percent
to 40 percent of total nitrogen and potassium prior
to mulching. Use the lower percentage (20 percent)
on seep-irrigated tomatoes. Apply the remaining
nitrogen and potassium through the drip system in
increments as the crop develops. Start soon after
planting with weekly amounts representing 2 per-
cent to 4 percent of the total crop nitrogen and
potassium requirements. Then increase the amount
applied as the crop develops so that, at early fruiting,
approximately 10 percent to 12 percent of the total
nitrogen and potassium are applied weekly.
Additional nutrients can be supplied through drip
irrigation if deficiencies occur during the growing
season. Be careful not to apply excessive amounts
of water with the fertilizer because severe leaching
Sources of N-P205-K20. At least 30 to 50 percent
of the total applied nitrogen should be in the nitrate
form for soil treated with multi-purpose fumigants.
Slow-release nitrogen sources may be used to sup-
ply a portion of the nitrogen requirement. On a trial
basis, for overhead irrigated tomatoes, apply one-
third of the total required nitrogen as sulfur-coated
urea (SCU) or isobutylidene diurea (IBDU) incor-
porated in the bed. Nitrogen from natural organic
and most slow-release materials should be considered
ammoniacal nitrogen when calculating the amount
of ammoniacal nitrogen.
Normal superphosphate and triple superphosphate
are highly recommended for phosphorus needs. Both
contribute calcium and normal superphosphate con-
All sources of potassium can be used, but the
chloride (muriate) form should be used sparingly
where soluble salt problems are likely. This might oc-
cur under the seep irrigation system or where irriga-
tion water is already high in soluble salts. Potassium
sulfate, sodium-potassium nitrate, potassium nitrate,
and potassium-magnesium sulfate are suitable
Florida tomatoes can be grown using both direct-
seeding and transplanting techniques. Field planting
dates, rates, and spacing requirements for the ma-
jor tomato production regions are presented in Table
Nearly all of the acreage of tomatoes on the
Rockdale soil of Dade county, and some east coast
areas, are direct-seeded through plastic mulch using
the plug-mix method (6). In the plug mix seeding
method, tomato seeds, fertilizer nutrients, and water
are blended with a growing medium of 30 percent
Table 5. Field planting dates. rates, and spacing lor tomatoes in Florida
andWest Central Southeast Date
Spring Feb.-March Jan.-Feb. Dec.-Jan. Sept.-Jan
Fall Aug. Aug.-Sept. July-Aug.
Seed to transplants
(days) 24-42 24-42 24-42 24-42
transplants 70-90 70-90 70-90 70-90
directseeded 90-115 90-115 90-115 90-115
Distance between rows
(inches) 48-72 48-72 48-72 48-72
row- ground 18-40 18-40 12-24 12-24
stake 12-24 18-32 12-32
Seed required per
Orect seeded 113-2/3 1/4-1/2 1/4-1/2 1/4-12
seedbed to plant
I acre 1/4 1/4 1/4 1/4
plugmax 114-1/2 1/4-1/2 1/4-1/2 1/4-1/2
Planting depth (inches)
general 1/2 1/2 1/2 3/4
plugmix 3/4 3/4 3/4
vermiculite and 70 percent peat. Mixing is done in
cement mixers and the mixture is often allowed to
stand in polyethylene bags for 24 to 48 hours prior
to planting to allow the seeds to imbibe water and
start the germination process. The mix is placed in
'the field by precision plug-mix planters at the rate
of one-eighth to one-fourth cup of mix per hill (Fig.
5). The plug-mix system can be used in conjunction
with open field or mulch culture.
Two types of plug-mix planters are available de-
pending on how the hole in the mulch is opened. One
type punches the hole while inserting the plug mix,
the other burns a hole with a propane burner. The
latter is often preferred because it does not leave a
torn flap of plastic mulch behind which might
damage young seedlings during windy conditions.
The closed-jet burner type is preferred over the
open-burner because the former can be used in
windy and rainy conditions.
With the plug-mix system, it is necessary to apply
water via overhead irrigation or water wagon every
2 days during hot weather until the seedlings are
well-established. Watering also helps keep fertilizer
salt concentration low in the seed area. Once
established, seedlings are thinned to one to two
plants per hill.
Tomatoes also can be direct-seeded in open ground.
However, weed control and hand labor to thin seed-
lings present problems with this method. Early crops
are difficult to achieve and stands are often less than
Most transplanted tomato crops are established
with containerized transplants, although some bare-
root transplants are used. Containerized transplants
are placed in the field with the growing medium at-
tached 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 ma-
chines 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 phosphorus, such as 10-52-17, used
at the rate of 3 to 4 lbs per 50 gallons of transplant
water often stimulates early root development.
Bare-root transplants should be grown from high-
quality, fungicide-treated seed on fumigated, or
virgin soil, that has been limed to pH 6.0 to 6.5. Small
amounts of fertilizer (1-2-2 pounds of N-P2O,-K20 per
1000 square feet) should be incorporated into the
seedbed. Irrigation must be available. Seed should
be broadcast or sown in rows 6 to 8 inches apart with
20 to 30 seeds per linear foot. Protection from wind
and frost should be made available through the use
of plastic-covered structures, cold frames, or by
various types of row cover materials. Ventilation
should be provided on hot, sunny days. For recom-
mendations on control of disease, insects, and
nematodes, consult the appropriate Pest Control
Guide and Plant Protection Pointer No. 25.
Figure 5. Direct-seeding tomatoes in Homestead
with the plug-mix system.
Seedlings that are about 5 inches in height are
ready to be transplanted. They should be loosened
from the soil before lifting to minimize damage to the
roots. Do not soak or irrigate the transplants after
pulling because of the increased risk of disease
organism spread. Provide shade and plant
The 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 surface area of approximately
1 to 2 square inches.
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 mix) should be used. Fill-
ing and seeding trays is time-consuming and can be
mechanized by various tray-filling and vacuum-
seeding machines. Often seeding accuracy can be op-
timized 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, fer-
tility, and pest control.
All vegetable crops require adequate and timely ir-
rigation and, where natural rainfall is lacking, sup-
plemental irrigations must be made. On sandy soils,
tomatoes require one-half to one inch of water per
week during early growth and 1 to 11/2 inches dur-
ing fruiting. The subsurface (seep) irrigation system,
which can maintain constant levels of moisture, is
the least costly method of irrigation because of low
capital investments, but it has a low water-use effi-
ciency 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 seep-irrigated tomatoes because water
movement is mostly downward. Often overhead ir-
rigation is required in conjunction with seep,
especially during hot, dry periods during which wet-
ting of the beds by seep is difficult. There are several
types of overhead irrigation systems including travel-
ing guns, center pivots, movable pipe, and solid-set
pipe. One disadvantage of overhead irrigation is the
increased potential for spreading foliar disease
Drip irrigation has many merits and is becoming
more popular for vegetable production. These merits
include reduced water usage, the capability of fer-
tilizing 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 com-
bination with other methods, pai-ticularly the seep
method. Here, one attraction is the capability of pro-
viding 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 plartting. This bed fertilizer
can contribute to soluble salt damage to seedlings and
might be lost to leaching.
The stake tomato culture system (Fig. 6) is used to
provide tomato fruits higher in quality, and easier
to harvest, than ground tomato. Stakes approximate-
ly one inch square and 48 inches long are driven in-
to the ground. A stake is driven into the bed halfway
between each plant (or alternating plants) two to
three weeks after transplanting.
Figure 6. Tomatoes with newly placed stakes near
Tying of plants begins three to four weeks after
transplanting. 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 verticle support.
Tying is usually done three to four times during the
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
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 OF was effective
in removing Fusarium. In most situations, exposing
stakes to methyl bromide under a plastic cover might
be more feasible.
Presently, the most effective method of frost pro-
tection is overhead irrigation during the freeze
period. Timely and complete coverage is required.
Sprinklers should be placed so that 50 percent effec-
tive coverage is ensured. Sprinklers should be turned
on when the temperature falls to 31 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 (5). They should be left on
until the temperature rises and ice begins to melt,
or until the wet-bulb temperature rises above 32 OF.
Another possible method of frost protection might
be row covers, hoop-supported polyethylene or non-
supported 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. Since
research on row covers in Florida is not yet complete,
growers interested in the system should try it on a
small scale only.
Tomatoes are subject to damage from many insects,
nematodes, and fungal, viral, and bacterial
pathogens. In addition, weeds and several
physiological disorders, such as nutrient deficiencies,
can cause yield losses. Specific chemical control
measures can be obtained from individual control
guides mentioned at the beginning of this
Chemical control of pests must be practiced only
according to the pesticide label. Where several
chemicals are available to control a pest, alternating
the use of the materials may help reduce chances of
developing pest resistance to a chemical. Misuse of
chemicals can lead to possible worker contamination
and environmental pollution in addition to exceeded
tolerances for pesticide residues on fruit. Before
using any chemical, read the product label and the
information in the guides detailing precautions and
suggestions for proper use.
Pest control should consist of an integrated pest
management (IPM) system which relies on efficient
use of all appropriate control strategies. Action is
taken to prevent problems and suppress damage
levels without reliance solely on chemicals. Effec-
tive IPM consists of four basic principles: exclusion
of the pest from the field, suppression of pest levels
below an economic threshold, eradication of certain
pests where deemed absolutely necessary, and plant
resistance in cultivars of crop plants.
To carry out these principles, several steps are
taken: identification of key pests and beneficial
organisms, preventative cultural practices to
minimize pest development, pest population
monitoring by trained field scouts, prediction of loss
and risk to determine when levels of yield and qual-
ity will be threatened, and action decision on what
control measure is warranted. All sound IPM pro-
grams include an evaluation phase to assess the level
of success. Details on IPM can be found in "IPM, an
integrated pest management primer," University of
Florida Cooperative Extension Miscellaneous
Publication IPM-1, 1978.
Tomatoes are susceptible to injury from sting,
stubby-root, awl, stunt, reniform, dagger, and root-
knot nematodes among others. The most important
nematode problems are root-knot in sand and
Rockdale soils, and stubby-root and sting in sands.
Nematodes can be managed by application of one or
more of the following techniques: clean cultivation,
crop rotation, flooding, soil fumigation and
nematicides. Soils of known nematode infestation
should be avoided or treated with an approved
fumigant or nematicide.
With the continuing reduction in chemicals
available for nematode control, research is being con-
ducted on alternate, non-chemical means of control.
One method, solarization, might have promise for
small-scale use. This method involves applying clear
polyethylene on the prepared bed for at least 4 to
6 weeks. The accumulated heat from sunlight raises
soil temperature enough to destroy many soil-borne
For more information on nematode assays and for
chemical control recommendations, consult the
Nematode Control Guide. Nematode Sample Kits,
which contain instructions and packing materials for
collecting and submitting samples to the Nematode
Assay Laboratory in Gainesville, are available from
the county Extension office.
Tomatoes are subject to attack from many disease-
causing organisms including fungi, bacteria, and
viruses. In addition many physiological disorders can
cause serious losses in tomato crops. Below is a
general description of the major tomato diseases. For
specific chemical control measures, consult the
tomato disease control chart in the Disease Control
Guide. More information on the diseases is available
(2, 10, 11, 12).
Bacterial Soft Rot. This disease is caused by a
bacterium, Erwinia carotorora pv. carotovora,
which infects stems, petioles, and fruits. On the fruit,
small water-soaked spots appear which enlarge
rapidly, converting the fruit into a soft, watery mass.
The disease is particularly troublesome in storage or
Control of the disease involves procedures which
minimize wounding fruit during harvesting and pack-
ing. Follow correct washing procedures using
chlorinated water. Tomato varieties differ in suscep-
tibility to soft rot. Flora-Dade cultivar is less prone
to the disease than other cultivars. Consult Plant
Pathology Fact Sheet No. 12 for more information.
Bacterial Speck. Caused by Pseudomonas
syringac pv. tomato, this disease is often difficult to
distinguish from bacterial spot since both diseases
can occur simultaneously. Bacterial speck lesions ap-
pear as numerous, tiny, dark brown spots less than
one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter and usually do
not penetrate deeper than the fruit epidermis. Speck
lesions are usually smaller than spot lesions and do
not exhibit the raised, scab appearance of spot
Since this disease is seed borne, control of speck
begins with disease-free seed and transplants. Con-
trol of speck in the field is difficult. Destroy tomato
plant residues and avoid double-cropping. Consult
Plant Pathology Fact Sheet No. 10 for more
Bacterial spot. This disease, caused by
Xanthomonas campestris pv. vesicatoria, can often
be confused with young early blight or gray leaf spot
lesions. Bacterial spot lesions on leaves are brown,
irregularly shaped, and greasy in appearance. They
are rarely more than 1/8 inch in diameter. Spots lack
the concentric ring appearance of early blight and
are less uniformly distributed than gray leaf spot.
Small, watersoaked spots appear which are slightly
raised and 1/8 to 1/4 inch in diameter. There may be
a slight halo around the spot which eventually disap-
pears leaving a scabby lesion. Leaf infection occurs
through natural openings while wounds are common
entries for fruit infection.
Bacterial spot is difficult to control in the field so
care must be taken to avoid purchase of infected
transplants. Destroy the old crop residue once
harvest is complete and keep volunteer tomato
plants out of fallow land. Preventative copper sprays
are used to control mild outbreaks in the field. Avoid
excessive use of copper, since it can be toxic to plants
and can build up to toxic levels in the soil. Consult
Plant Pathology Fact Sheet No. 3 for more
Bacterial wilt Caused by Pseudomonas
solanacearum, this disease is distinguished from
fusarium and verticillium wilts by the rapid wilt, lack
of foliage yellowing, and hollowness of stems. Stems
cut from plants with bacterial wilt exude a gray-
brown, flowing material from the cut. The bacteria
enters the plant from various types of wounds to the
To control bacterial wilt, avoid planting in low, wet
areas or on land with a history of bacterial wilt.
Rotate fields to non-solanaceous crops. Fumigation
of seedbed and field may help where the disease is
anticipated. Avoid movement of machinery or water
from infested fields to non-infested areas.
Black shoulder On fruit approaching maturity,
dark gray-to-black areas appear on the shoulders.
These areas become leathery and often sunken. The
cause of the problem is not known but is worse in
cool, rainy weather, and affects some cultivars more
than others. The only practical method of control is
to use cultivars which are tolerant of this problem.
Blossom-end rot This disorder is a physiological
problem caused by calcium deficiency and water
stress. The blossom-end of the fruit collapses and
shrivels to a leathery, dark, dry rot. Conditions which
limit calcium availability to the plant lead to blossom-
end rot. These include acidic soils, drought soils,
and flooded soils.
To control the problem avoid those conditions
listed above. Follow a program of soil testing and
careful water management. Foliar fertilization with
calcium is difficult because it requires many applica-
tions of calcium, each in small amounts, to provide
enough calcium to youngest plant parts.
Brown root rot This disease, caused by
Pyrenochaeta lycopersici, is the principal cause of
"old land decline" disease in Dade county. The
symptoms consist of corky lesions on roots. Control
of brown root rot is achieved through rotation and
Buckeye rot This disease, caused by Phytopthora
parasitica, affects fruits which touch the ground. In-
fected spots enlarge in a series of irregular, concen-
To control buckeye rot, provide good field
drainage, and grow the crop using stakes and plastic
mulched beds which reduce fruit contact with soil.
Damping-off Caused by several fungi, this disease
affects young seedlings in the transplant bed or
shortly after setting in the field. Seedlings wilt, fall
over, and usually cause damage to the stem. Direct-
seeded crop stands also can be reduced by direct at-
tack to the germinating seeds especially in cool, damp
To control the disease, start with fungicide-treated
seed and soil fumigation. Maximize soil drainage and
use plastic mulch to increase soil temperature. For
more information, see Plant Pathology Fact Sheet
Early blight The causal organism, Alternaria
solani, can infect all above ground portions of the
plant. On the leaves, small, brown lesions enlarge to
irregular spots which consist of a series of concen-
tric rings. Similar lesions can develop on stems. Fruit
is usually infected near the calyx in the green or ripe
stage. Lesions are black, sunken, irregular in shape
and have a characteristic concentric ring
The most effective control measure is to follow a
fungicide application schedule in the seedbed and
field. For more information, consult Plant Pathology
Fact Sheet No. 7.
Fusarium wilt Three races of the organism
Fusarium oxysporum f. lycopersici have been found
in Florida. The disease first appears in the field as
yellowing of older leaves. This occurs on one side of
the leaves and on one side of the plant. Eventually
the whole plant wilts and dies. The vascular tissue
of diseased plants is dark brown in color, especially
near petiole scars.
To control race 1 and 2 wilt, use resistant varieties
where possible. Prevent the appearance of race 3 by
restricting the movement of infected plants or in-
fested soils from areas having the disease. Rotation
every 5 to 7 years and soil fumigation should be
employed. Maintaining a soil pH near 6.5 will reduce
the severity of fusarium disease.
Fusarium root rot This is a devastating new
disease localized in the Jupiter and Fort Pierce area.
It is very difficult to control where ditch irrigation
Gray leaf spot The lesions from Stemphylium
solani begin as small brown-black specks on lower
leaves and enlarge to about 1/12 inch in diameter.
They become lighter in color and shiny in ap-
pearance, with yellow borders. Eventually leaves
become yellow and drop.
To control, carefully destroy old crop refuse,
especially if gray leaf spot was a problem the
preceding year. Most cultivars have resistance to this
Gray mold This disease, caused by Botrytis
cinerea, is characterized by large, water-soaked le-
sions which are usually covered with grayish
mycelium. The organism can enter leaves and fruits
through any opening or wound..On fruit, a watery
lesion with a tan center appears and eventually leads
to a soft rot. Occasional aborted fruit infections will
appear on the fruit. These lesions, called ghost spots,
consist of a cloudy white ring 1/16 of an inch in
diameter with a dark speck in the center.
Gray mold does not develop where soil pH is 6.5,
or on naturally calcareous soils. Fungicides can be
used as needed.
Gray wall and blotchy ripening The exact cause
of these diseases, which are considered by some to
be different disorders, is not fully understood. Dark-
colored tissue sometimes develops in the fruit wall
and areas of the fruit fail to develop proper color
often remaining gray or yellow. In laboratory studies,
symptoms similar to those of gray wall were
duplicated by bacteria infiltration of the fruit, but
under field conditions, bacteria cannot be isolated
from affected fruits. Both disorders seem to increase
in severity with potassium deficiency.
Late blight Caused by Phythopthora infestans,
this disease results in large, irregular, greenish water-
soaked areas on fruits. The lesions enlarge rapidly,
become brown, and have a wrinkled surface. Stem
lesions can girdle the plant, causing death. The
disease is most prevalent when it is cool and moist.
To control late blight, apply fungicides based on
scouting reports. Avoid rotating tomatoes with
potatoes. For more information, consult Plant
Pathology Fact Sheet No. 6.
Leaf mold This disease caused by Cladosporium
fulvum is favored by moist conditions and reduced
ventilation. Leaf mold can be severe in greenhouses.
Symptoms appearing first on the lower leaves con-
sist of yellowing in spots on the upper leaf.surface
with olive-green mold on the corresponding area on
the underside of the leaf.
To control leaf mold, provide adequate ventilation
with proper plant spacing and choose resistant
varieties. Apply fungicides when needed.
Phoma rot This causal organism, Phoma destruc-
tiva, can infect most above-ground portions of the
plant. On leaves and stems, small black lesions
enlarge to spots which are irregular in shape, slightly
sunken, and zonate as in early blight. The fruiting
bodies of the fungus can be observed in the lesions
with a hand lens. On fruit, lesions are associated with
injuries and are distinguished by the black color and
the small fruiting bodies.
For control, use only fungicide-treated seed and
employ a fungicide spray program in the seedbed and
Potato Y virus This disease causes young leaves
to curl inward and downward giving the plant a
drooping appearance. The tip leaflet usually contains
dark brown dead areas. Stems often show a purple
streaking but fruits do not have symptoms. Infected
plants become stunted and yield is reduced. The
virus is transmitted by aphids from various weed
hosts, such as nightshades and ground cherry, and
from infected potato fields.
To control the virus, eradicate weed hosts and
avoid planting tomatoes near potatoes. Application
of stylet oils might help reduce the virus spread by
Pseudo curly top This is another virus disease,
which is most prevalent on younger plants. The
leaves curl upward with the veins becoming purple.
Branches and stems become stiff and brittle.
To control this disease, destroy nightshade and
ragweed. Sometimes insecticide sprays of the field
perimeter are needed to destroy tree hoppers which
transmit the virus.
Sclerotinia stem rot The organism, Sclerotinia
sclerotiorum, can cause a damping-off seedling
disease but more commonly attacks older plants in
the field. The fungus attacks plants at the soil line
producing a canker lesion on the stem which is
covered with white mycelium. The plants wilt and
die. Stems reveal cavities filled with black sclerotia
or resting bodies of the fungus when cut open.
Control can be achieved through flooding but this
action carries with it the risk of spreading other
diseases such as bacterial wilt. Use well drained
fields, sanitation, and crop rotation. Avoid follow-
ing crops, such as beans, celery, lettuce, or other
crops that have been infected with this organism.
Proper fungicides applied to the seedbed or field may
be used. For more information, consult Plant
Pathology Fact Sheet No. 22.
Soil rot This disease, caused by Rhizoctonia
solani, causes fruit rot by penetrating wounds or un-
damaged epidermis wherever the fruit contact the
soil. The lesions are similar to buckeye rot. However,
soil rot lesions develop slowly and do not lead to soft
rot as in buckeye rot.
To control soil rot, grow the tomato crop on stakes
using plastic-covered beds. Apply fungicides when
needed and prevent losses in transit by careful
Solar yellows This physiological disorder results
in fruits with shoulders that remain bright yellow.
It is caused by high fruit temperatures and high light
intensity which prevent proper red coloration of the
fruit. It can be serious during extended hot and dry
To control this disorder, maintain proper foliage
coverage of fruit by good disease management, fer-
tility levels, and irrigation. Where plant foliage
coverage is not satisfactory, some success in control
has been obtained by spraying clay suspensions on
the fruits in the field which then washes off in the
packing house. This practice has not been fully
researched so it should be tried only on a trial basis.
Southern blight This causal fungus, Sclerotium
rolfsii, attacks mature plants just below the soil sur-
face completely girdling the stem causing rapid
wilting and death. The mycelium grows over the
diseased areas and the soil surface forming a mat
with tan, mustard-seed-sized sclerotia. Fruit near the
ground are often attacked.
Control begins with disposal of infected plants to
prevent spread. Use shaking culture practices to keep
fruit off the ground and employ soil fumigants prior
to planting. For more information, see Plant
Pathology Fact Sheet No. 4.
Target spot This disease, caused by Corynespora
cassicola, begins on the leaf as small brown spots
which become surrounded by a sunken, dull green
area. The center of the spot may become white on
older leaves. Fruit rot on the shoulder or sides of fruit
begins as small white spots with a border and enlarge
up to 1/2 inch. To control target spot use approved
Tobacco etch This virus disease is similar to potato
Y virus except the plants with etch are more stunted
and the virus spread is slower. Laboratory assays are
needed for a definite diagnosis.
To control tobacco etch, eradicate weed hosts, such
as nightshades and ground cherry. Insecticides and
stylet oil applications to reduce the aphid vector
Tobacco mosaic This virus, also called tomato
mosaic, causes plant stunting if plants are infected
early but usually little stunting is observed in later
infections. The leaves are usually mottled and crin-
kled. The fruit can have symptoms consisting of mot-
tling, rough surfaces, and occasional fruits with
openings in the walls.
The virus is highly infectious and readily transmit-
ted by any physical contact with plants. Workers
should wash hands in 70 percent alcohol or with
strong soap to remove virus particles. This is es-
pecially important for workers who use tobacco pro-
ducts. Eliminate volunteer tomato plants and cleanse
equipment that comes in contact with infected plants
Tomato yellows Plants infected with this virus
have a general chlorotic appearance. Fruit do not
show symptoms. The virus is spread by aphids from
weed hosts such as nightshade, ground cherry, and
To control tomato yellows, maintain a careful weed
control program and reduce aphid populations with
Verticillium wilt This wilt disease is caused by the
fungus Verticillium albo-atrum. The disease starts
with wilting of the lower leaves. Eventually leaves
develop yellow areas along the margins and die. The
disease does not rapidly kill the plant but results in
severely reduced yields. The interior of the stem near
the base of the plant will reveal a tan discoloration
of the vascular tissue which does not extend up the
stem as far as fusarium wilt does. Also the stem cav-
ity does not become hollow as in bacterial wilt.
Control of verticillium wilt can be achieved with
resistant varieties. In the seedbed and the field prac-
tice sanitation, rotation, and fumigation.
Minor tomato diseases Other diseases which can
occasionally appear include black mold Alternaria
fasciculata, nailhead spot Alternaria tomato, an-
thracnose Colletotrichum phomoides, bacterial
canker Corynebacterium michiganense pv.
michiganense, fruit rot Geotrichum candidum, and
septoria leafspot Septoria lycopersici.
Aphids These small, sucking insects feed on plant
sap which reduces plant vigor and producing a stickly
exudate called honey-dew. Aphids are also very ef-
fective vectors of plant viruses.
Aphids are not difficult to control if the proper in-
secticides are applied on a timely basis. Often a
single, well timed application will destroy an aphid
Armyworms Several armyworms including the
fall, beet, and southern armyworms can damage
tomatoes. Armyworms can generally be distin-
guished by an inverted "Y" on the front of the head.
The fall armyworm has three yellowish-white hair
lines down the back. To the side of the hair line is
a wide dark stripe and next to the dark stripe is a
yellow stripe with red blotches. The beet armyworm
is green with prominent dark lateral stripes and a
small black spot located on its side just above the
second pair of true legs. The southern armyworm,
also called a climbing cutworm, is dark gray and
marked with yellow stripes on its side.
Armyworms are easy to control with insecticides
with the exception of the beet armyworm. It should
be controlled prior to reaching 1/2 inch in length.
Tomato fruitworm This is the same insect as the
corn earworm and damages tomatoes by boring into
fruits. The worm varies in color from light green to
pink or brown with alternating light and dark stripes
running lengthwise on the body. The head is yellow
and the legs black. The skin is coarse with many,
small, thorn-like projections.
The fruitworm is controlled by complete foliar
coverage by proper insecticides. Timing is critical
since control is impossible once the insect bores into
Tomato pinworm This insect, the larvae of a
moth, is yellowish-green or gray with purple spots.
The insect is 1/4 inch long and tunnels in the leaf like
a leaf miner. The pinworm rolls and ties the leaf tips
together and does not leave a trail of black fecal
material behind as leaf miners do. Fecal deposits are
made at the entrance of the tunnels.
Control is difficult due to the protected feeding
habits. Populations can be kept low if correct selec-
tion, application, and timing of insecticides are made.
Hornworms These larvae are large, green in-
dividuals, 3 to 4 inches in length and have a horn-
like projection on the posterior. The insects consume
great quantities of foliage from tomato, tobacco, pep-
per, potato, and eggplants. The worm is easy to con-
trol with recommended insecticides. Good plant
coverage is required.
Loopers The cabbage looper is the most
devastating of the looper insects. It is usually green
with a white line along each side of the body and two
lines near the middle of the back. Loopers can con-
sume large amounts of foliage.
Loopers become difficult to control as they age.
Complete coverage with insecticides is mandatory if
control is to be achieved.
Leaf miners This insect, the larvae of a small,
black fly is one of the most damaging insects on
tomato. The female leaf miner adult punctures the
leaves as she inserts the eggs. The leaves take on a
white blotched appearance. Small, yellow maggots
hatch and feed just below the leaf epidermis leav-
ing winding trails containing spots of black fecal
Control is difficult due to the protected feeding
habits and poor control performance of most
chemicals. Insecticides with systemic action are
usually the best type to use. Sometimes, a portion
of the larval population may be destroyed by
Stink bugs These insects are flat, shield-shaped
bugs that produce an offensive odor when disturbed.
The green stink bug is the most common in Florida
although the brown stink bug can be very numerous
as well. On tomato fruits, stink bugs pierce the
epidermis numerous times. A white blemish results
just below the epidermis. The tissue is spongy in
texture and usually results in no further decay
development. The name cloudy spot is often given
to this condition.
Where stink bug populations are high, insecticide
application might be warranted. Careful scouting is
needed to observe these easily concealed insects.
Banded cucumber beetle The adult beetles feed
on foliage while the larvae feed on roots. The insect
can be controlled by timely application of
Cutworms The cutworms are stout, dark colored
insects which feed on plant foliage and stems often
cutting :the seedling at the soil line. Most of the
damage is done at night when the worms climb the
plants. During the day, the worms can be found
under trash or in cracks in the soil around the plant.
Cutworms are controlled best by baits which
should be applied late in the afternoon.
Wireworms These insects are one of the most
damaging of all soil insects. The larvae are slender,
hard, and have a shiny appearance most commonly
yellow-brown in color. The adult is known as the
"click beetle." The worms can live for several years,
deep in the soil, and attack suddenly.
Control is achieved through crop rotation by
carefully keeping records of pest history. Insecticides
applied prior to planting, and thoroughly incor-
porated, continue to be the most effective method
Mole crickets This nocturnal pest damages plants
by tunneling in, under, and around plant root
systems only occasionally feeding on them. Mole
cricket activity is highest in warm, moist soils.
Mole crickets are best controlled by baits or ap-
plications of soil insecticides. Baits must be broad-
cast late in the afternoon when soils are warm and
Optimum vegetable production depends on suc-
cessful control of weed species. Weeds reduce yields
by competing with the crop for nutrients, water, and
light. In addition, certain weeds may be alternate
hosts for plant disease organisms and insects. It is im-
portant to understand certain weed problems
because they can differ in the same field and in dif-
ferent years. Annual grasses and broadleaves sprout
from seed and complete their life cycle in one year.
The weeds must be anticipated and control strategies
planned before the crop is established. Perennial
weeds, such as bermuda grass, live continually from
year to year, and therefore can be found prior to field
An important aid in weed control programs, is a
weed map. Weed maps, developed through the
season, will detail areas in the field where specific
weeds exist, and as a result, help the grower plan
a more efficient weed control strategy.
Control of weeds is similar to control of plant
disease and insects since it involves an integrated
management system where several control strategies
may be combined. These measures include
mechanical means, crop rotation, cover cropping,
crop competition, mulching, and herbicides. Included
in this strategy is record keeping on the various weed
species present in a particular field. This will help
in planning a weed control program for next season.
Mechanical means include such mechanical weed
control measures as plowing, disking, cultivation,
hoeing, mowing, and hand-pulling. Cultivate only
deep enough to achieve weed control. Excessive
cultivation could damage crop roots, or lead to rapid
Crop rotation helps control weeds by providing a
different crop/weed interaction. Different weed con-
trol strategies might be available on one crop that
may not be available, or as effective for another
crop. Rotating to a crop that is more competitive with
a certain weed, or for which a specific herbicide is
labeled, might be a good strategy for dealing with a
Cover cropping allows a grower to place a crop in
the field to compete with weeds during the "off-
season". Competition reduces the weed's ability to
reproduce, and thus can reduce the potential for
weed problems in the next season.
Special attention needs to be placed on ensuring
the crop's capability to compete with weeds. This in-
cludes providing optimum water, fertilizer, and pest
control so that the crop has a competitive advantage.
Optimum plant and row spacing will provide the
highest economic degree of crop competition with
Careful selection of approved herbicides can be ef-
fective tools for weed control. Care must be exer-
cised to ensure these materials are used at proper
rates and timing to avoid crop damage. For specific
recommendations on chemicals and proper use, con-
sult the Weed Control Guide for Commercial
Vegetable Production in Florida, Circular 196-H.
The use of black polyethylene mulch on tomato
beds will greatly reduce weed problems in the row.
Fumigants used under mulch will help reduce weed
and pest problems. Weeds may still appear in plant
holes in the mulch or in alleys between beds. Usually
timely application of a herbicide with a shielded
sprayer or manual cultivation will remove weeds in
This Pest Management information was compiled by
George Hochmuth, for tomato growers, from the Vegetable
Sections written by Gary Simone, Fred Johnson, and Bob
Dunn, respectively, in the following IFAS publications: Disease
Control Guide, Insect Control Guide, and Nematode Control
by M. Sherman
Maturity at harvest
The United States Department of Agriculture
Grade Standards for Fresh Tomatoes recognizes six
official color designations: green, breaker, turning,
pink, light red, and red. The Florida tomato industry
is based primarily on harvesting tomatoes at the
mature-green stage. Problems arise in determining
maturity at harvest because it is difficult to
distinguish immature-green tomatoes from mature-
green tomatoes. If tomatoes are harvested before the
mature-green stage, they will fail to ripen normally.
All of the following have been used as external in-
dicators of maturity in green-picked tomatoes: 1) size
- attainment of a minimum size which varies with
cultivar; 2) shape well rounded, not angular; 3)
color some cultivars turn whitish green and others
show cream-colored streaks at the blossom end; 4)
surface having a waxy gloss and a skin not torn
by scraping indicates a more developed cuticle; and
5) stem scar the presence of brown corky tissue
on the stem scar in some cultivars (7).
A fruit's internal appearance is a much better in-
dicator of maturity in the green stage, but this is a
destructive test. A representative sample of fruit can
be cut and classified based on their internal ap-
pearance (Table 6). This information can then be
used as an index to the maturity of the crop for
In actual practice Florida growers use a combina-
tion of these factors to determine when the crop is
ready to harvest. Most delay harvest until a small
percentage of fruits are showing color in the field.
Then pickers are instructed to harvest fruits larger
than some minimum size. In addition, effective Dec.
1, 1986, the United States Dept. of Agriculture sign-
ed an order raising the minimum size of tomatoes
that could be shipped out of the regulated area, as
defined in the Florida Tomato Marketing Order, to
2 8/32 inches in diameter. This regulation will help
prevent the marketing of low quality immature-
Table 6. Malurity classes of green tomatoesz.
days to reach
Class Internal appearance 68F storage.
immature-green No jelly-like material in any More than 10
of the locules; seeds are cut by
a sharp knife upon slicing the
Partially marture- Jelly-like material formed in at 6to10
green least one, but in lessthan all
the locules; seeds are well
Typical mature- Jelly-like matrix in all locules. 2to5
seeds are not cut by a sharp knife
upon slicing the fruit.
Advanced mature- typical mature-green with some
green internal rea coloration
zAdapli trom reference i I
Currently all fresh market tomatoes are harvested
by hand in Florida. Pickers place the fruits into
plastic buckets which hold 40 to 50 pounds of
tomatoes. In most areas, pickers carry the filled
buckets to field trucks and empty fruit into pallet
bins or gondolas. Pallet bins hold between 800 and
1200 pounds of fruit and gondolas hold between
16,000 and 24,000 pounds of fruit. The pickers may
have to walk as much as 50 yards to empty their
In a newer system used where tomatoes are grown
on the ground, a conveyor-type harvest aid, span-
ning about 12 rows of tomatoes, travels just ahead
of the pickers. Pickers only have to travel a few feet
to empty their buckets. The harvest aid then con-
veys the fruit up an elevator and into the gondolas.
Use of this harvest aid can minimize bruising because
the most damaging step of emptying the picking
buckets into the gondolas is eliminated. When
operated properly the harvest aid can virtually
eliminate impact bruising which may affect as much
as 20 percent of the fruit.
Once the field trucks with the pallet bins or gon-
dolas have been filled, they are transported to the
packinghouse. While awaiting unloading, fruit should
be kept in a shaded area to minimize heating. Fruit
held in the sun for an hour on a hot, sunny day can
be as much as 25 F hotter than fruit held in the
Most tomato packinghouses are large,
sophisticated, high volume operations. Generally,
tomatoes are dumped and washed, presized, waxed,
sorted and graded, sized, packed into shipping con-
tainers, and unitized for shipment in the
Dumping and washing Water dump tanks are
routinely used for receiving tomatoes at the pack-
inghouse. In Florida, pallet bins are emptied into the
dump tank or tomatoes are water flumed from gon-
dolas into the dump tank. In each case, tomatoes in
the dump tank are flumed to an elevator where they
are spray washed and conveyed to the packing lines.
Serious losses due to decay occur periodically in
tomato shipments during transit or at destination.
Florida research has shown that poor dump tank and
wash water management practices can be major con-
tributors to decay problems (13). Bacteria and fungi
present on the fruit when harvested can be spread
to uncontaminated tomatoes in the water. Organisms
that cause bacterial soft rot Erwinia carotovora,
sour rot or watery rot Geotrichum candidutm,
Rhizopus rot Rhizopus stolonifera, and gray mold
Botrytis cinerea can inoculate the fruit during dump
tank and washing procedures. Decay of inoculated
fruit after packaging can spread to other fruit dur-
ing marketing and increase product losses.
The following is a summary of the suggested dump
tank management practices to eliminate these prob-
lems. 1. Minimize the depth to which tomatoes are
submerged when dumped, to less than 24 inches if
possible. 2. Maintain a single layer of tomatoes in the
dump tank. 3. Minimize the time tomatoes spend in
the dump tank, less than 2 minutes if possible. Never
leave tomatoes standing in the water during packing-
house crew breaks. Modify dump tanks to eliminate
"dead" spots. 4. Chlorinate dump tank and wash
water to maintain a free chlorine concentration of
100 to 150 parts per million (mg/L). Check concen-
tration frequently (at least twice a day) with a DPD
test kit. Chlorine may be added to the water as CL,
gas or the liquid and dry formulations of calcium or
sodium hypochlorite labeled for such use. 5. Main-
tain the dump tank water temperature 100F higher
than highest fruit pulp temperatures. Water heating
requirements can be minimized by keeping harvested
fruit in the shade. Temperatures should be monitored
with a thermometer. 6. These management practices
represent additive control efforts not alternative
methods. Use of a single control parameter (like
chlorination) has not proved to be sufficient to
prevent postharvest decay during disease-favorable
Presizing Following washing, tomatoes pass over
a presizer. Most presizers are continuous perforated
belt sizers with holes 2 5/32 inches in diameter, ex-
cept during a marketing order where the minimum
size is 2 8/32. Smaller tomatoes drop through the belt
and are conveyed to the cull chute. This step
eliminates undersized fruit and prevents them from
congesting the packinghouse operations which
Waxing Most Florida tomatoes are waxed prior to
packing. Waxing is done with a heated formulation
of a food grade wax labeled for use on tomatoes.
Waxing serves to reduce water loss during
marketing, but it is done primarily to improve the
luster of tomatoes.
Sorting and grading In most packinghouses these
operations are done by hand and may involve several
hundred people. One of the first steps involves
separating green fruit from fruit showing any color
(U.S.D.A. color stages 2 and above). From this point
on, green fruit and colored fruit are handled on
similar, but separate packing lines. Electronic color
sorters based on reflectance readings have been
developed for tomatoes and are available from
Following color sorting, fruit are hand separated
into grades according to U.S.D.A. standards for
grades of fresh tomatoes (1) as modified by the
Florida Tomato Committee under authority of the
Federal Marketing Order. Grades are U.S. No. 1, U.S.
Combination, U.S. No. 2, and U.S. No. 3. When not
more than 15 percent of tomatoes in any lot fail to
meet the requirements of U.S. No. 1 grade and not
more than one-third of this 15 percent (5 percent)
are comprised of defects causing very serious
damage, including not more than one percent of
tomatoes that are soft or affected by decay, such
tomatoes may be shipped and designated as at least
85 percent U.S. No. 1 grade.
Depending on the growing season and crop condi-
tion, packers may not be packing all of the above
grades. In fact for the 1987-88 shipping season, 38.2
percent were shipped as 85 percent U.S. No. 1 or bet-
ter, 39.8 percent U.S. Combination, 13.4 percent U.S.
No. 2, and 8.6 percent U.S. No. 3 grade.
Sizing Following sorting and grading, tomatoes
move to the mechanical sizers. These are a series of
continuous belts with round holes cut in the belts cor-
responding to the maximum allowable diameter for
a given size. Most packinghouses have another
presizerjust in front of the sizer to insure that under-
sized fruits are removed. Fruits are then sized into
progressively larger size classifications as defined by
the Florida Tomato Committee (Table 7). These sizes
differ very slightly from those specified in the U.S.
Grade Standard. Currently, the U.S. tomato industry
is attempting to revise the size classifications contain-
ed in the Standard. Florida continues to use numeric
size designations (7 x 7, 6 x 7, 6 x 6, 5 x 6 and larger)
rather than the generic designations (small, medium,
large, etc.). The 7 x 7 size is no longer permitted for
those packing operations in the areas regulated by
the Florida Tomato Committee. The numeric designa-
tions refer to the configuration of packing in a
wooden lug box, a container no longer used.
However, in order to avoid misbranding problems
and allow for a 2/32 inch overlap between size
designations, it is necessary for Florida to use sizing
terms other than small, medium, large, etc., which
are legally defined in the U.S. Standards (1).
Packing Sized and graded fruits are conveyed to
automatic fillers. Fruits are jumble-packed into
fibreboard containers until they are filled to the
designated net weight (25 lbs. for greens and 20 lbs.
for pinks). Filled containers are conveyed through
automatic labeling wheels which stamp the size on
the carton. Grades are usually designated by dif-
ferent brand names or shipping labels. Empty con-
tainers are mechanically fed to the fillers through
chutes which deliver cartons from a make-up area
where the blanks are machine-run and hot-melt
glued together. While being conveyed to the unitiza-
tion area, the filled cartons are automatically lidded.
Containers and unitization Tomato shipping con-
tainers are constructed from corrugated fibreboard.
For mature-green tomatoes, the container must hold
a net weight of 25 pounds, but the dimensions of the
container are not regulated. During the past few
years, several shippers voluntarily adopted a metric
based carton which facilitates international transport
and export. The outside dimensions of the lid are 40
centimeters long x 30 centimeters wide. The outside
dimensions of the body for this container are 38.8
centimeters long x 29.1 centimeters wide x 23.4 cen-
Tomatoes are shipped as unitized loads. Cartons
are stacked on wooden pallets, 10 per layer and 8
layers high, for a total of 80 cartons per pallet. The
stacking may be done by hand or by automatic
palletizing equipment. Most recently, the pallet load
has been secured by adding 4 drops of glue to the
top of the lid of each container, and, as they are
Table 7. Florida tomato size classification.
Classification Minimum (in.) Maximum (in.)
7 x 7 2 25/32 210/32
6x7 28/32 218/32
6x6 216/32 226/32
5 x 6 and larger 2 24/32
2 This size eliminated from Florida regulated areas.
stacked, the glue secures the cartons to each other
making a stable load without strapping. From this
point onward the tomatoes are handled as palletiz-
ed, 2000 pound units with fork lift trucks rather than
as individual, 25 lb. cartons. Most of the packaged
mature-green tomatoes are moved to ripening rooms
for ripening initiation treatments, however, they
may be shipped out immediately, depending on the
Ethylene (CH4) is used to promote faster, and
more uniform ripening, of green-picked tomatoes.
Almost all tomato packinghouses are equipped with
storage facilities for initiating ripening with ethylene
treatments. Most of the ripening rooms have 40, 60,
80, or 100 pallet capacities. These rooms have precise
controls to maintain optimum ripening initiation con-
ditions of 68 OF and 89-95 percent relative humidity
(RH). A number of methods are available for in-
troducing ethylene gas in the ripening room (4), but
the catalytic generator and flow-through systems are
The catalytic generator system of introduction in-
volves generating ethylene in situ by a catalytic pro-
cess which coverts a liquid concentrate to C2H, gas.
A small machine powered by electricity has been
built for this process and is located within the ripen-
ing room. Ripening room1 operators simply have to
plug in the generator, add the concentrate, and turn
the generator on.
The flow-through system (14) invxol\es dispensing
ethylene from( compressed cylinders equipped with
a pressure regulator and flow mlieters. This system
supplies 1' collstalnt, ripening-effective blend )of
ethylene and fresh outside air which passes over tlie
tiomat4oes anlld (out an exhaLus1 port in the room. The
constalit air exchange prevents carbon dioxide fromni
building up to ripening inhibitory levels more than
2 percent and elminates tlie need flr periodic aera-
Sion. uiirrent reco()mmendlations for tomato ripening
suggest 15t) parts per million C I1, as the opttimum
concentration. An inexpensive portable method for
measuring et hyllene is provided by gas detection kits,
available from speciality gas companies, which con
sist of a piston-type voluimetric pump into which
direct-reading detector tubes are inserted. With
these kits, ethylene levels (ranging from 0. 1 to ;-.i 11
parts per million) can be measured.
The tomato fruit's susceptibility to chilling injury
dictates that optimum storage conditions for
tomatoes are within a relatively narrow range. As
already mentioned, optimum conditions for tomato
ripening are 68(F and 85-95 percent RH. Above
S5 F, tomato fruit develop more orange than red
pigments and this is undesirable for U.S. markets.
Those wishing to delay tomato ripening or hold
tomlatloes at a certain stage of ripeness can do so by
lowering the temperature below 68 OF, but no lower
than 50(F. Below 50(F, chilling injury may occur and
chilled fruits never ripen to full color, lose flavor,
and are susceptible to Allcrnitri decay. It has been
known for over 50 years that tomato quality is
adversely affected by temperatures below 50 F, but
it is amazing how few consumers are aware of this
fact and store ripening tomatoes in refrigerators
which maintain temperatures at about 401 F. Fully
ripe (eating-ripe) fruit may be stored below 50 F for
a short period if so desired.
1. Anonymous. 1976. United States standards for
grades of fresh tomatoes. U.S. Department of
Agriculture, Agricultural Marketing Service,
2. Doolittle, S.P., A. L. Taylor, and L. L. Danielson.
1961. Tomato diseases and their control.
U.S.D.A. Agriculture Handbook No. 203.
3. Everett. P. II. 1983. Soil fertility management for
tomatoes using seep irrigation and plastic mulch.
Florida Tomato Institute, Extension Report VEC
83-3 p. 25-27.
4. Gull, D. D. 1981. Ripening tomatoes with
ethylene. Vegetable Crops Fact Sheet, VC-29,
Univ. of Florida, Gainesville.
5. Harrison, D. S., J. F. Gerber, and R. E. Choate.
1974. Sprinkler irrigation for cold protection. Fla.
Coop. Extension Circ. 348.
6. Hayslip, N. C. 1974. A plug-mix seeding method
for field planting tomatoes and other small-
seeded hill crops. Fort Pierce ARC Research
Report RL 1974-3.
7. Kader, A. A. and L. L. Morris. 1976. Correlating
subjective and objective measurements of
maturation and ripeness of tomatoes. p. 57-62.
Proc. Second Tomato Quality Workshop.
Vegetables Crops. Series 178. Univ. of California,
8. Locascio, S. J. 1983. Fertilizer management for
overhead irrigated tomatoes. Florida Tomato In-
stitute. Extension Report VEC 83-3 p. 28-30.
9. Lorenz, O. A. and D. N. Maynard. 1980. Knott's
handbook for vegetable Growers. 2nd edition,
Wiley-Interscience, New York.
10. MacNab, A. A., A. F. Sherf, and J. K. Springer.
1981. Identifying diseases of vegetables. The
Pennsylvania State University.
11. McColloch, L.'P., H. T. Cook, and W. R. Wright.
1968. Market diseases of tomatoes, peppers, and
eggplants. U.S.D.A. Agriculture IIandbook No.
12. Pohronezny, K. and R. Sonoda. 1:I-.. Disease
control for Florida tomatoes. Extension Plant
Pathology Report No. 35.
13. Sherman, M., R. K. Showalter, .1. R. Bartz, and
G. W. Simone. 1981. Tomato packinghouse dump
tank sanitation. Vegetable Crops Fact Sheet,
VC-:31. Univ. of Florida, Gainesville.
14. Sherman, M. and I). D. Gull. I'li A flow-
through system for introducing ehlylene in
tomato ripening rooms. Vegetable (rops Fact
Sheet, VC-30, Univ. of Florida, (iainesville, FL.
This guide presents general recommendations for
commercial production of tomatoes in Florida.
Because chemical recommendations and production
costs change rapidly and are difficult to maintain cur-
rent, they are not presented in this guide but are
presented in several of the following IFAS
Insect Control Guide
Chemical Control Guide for Foliar Diseases of
Vegetables, Plant Pathology Rept. #6.
Plant Disease Control Guide
Guidelines for Effective Chemical Control of Plant
Diseases. Plant Pathology Report No. 20.
Nematode Control Guide (available also on VAX via
Weed (Control Guide for Commercial Vegetables,
commerciall Vegetable Fertilization Guide, Circular
Commercial Vegetable Varietiet s flor Florida. ('ir-
'Costs and Returns froil Vegetable (()rps in Florida,
with ( mplllarisons'. Economic Informal' tion
For information on the axvailablilt o(f these guides,
or for copies (f pertinent infltrmlation from them,
contact th(e county extension o(ffl(e. The abo
)pub)lications are ((continually revised: lie sure Ito get
the latest edit in.
PRE(CATII(NS: Pestici(des imuistl e used witxh ex-
treme cauitoi. Read and foll ow the label reconimen-
da(ions for crops (ion whicx h pe(stic(ide can be used.
dosage, and lime lapse betw een last alpplicatioi and
harvest. St udy suggest ions for safety \.
Graphic design anld illustration Ib Katril ia I ullklr
Reprinted August 1990
COOPERATIVE EXTENSION SERVICE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES, John T.
Woeste, director, in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture, publishes this information to further the purpose of the
May 8 and June 30, 1914 Acts of Congress; and is authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to
individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap or national origin. Single copies of extension
publications (excluding 4-H and youth publications) are available free to Florida residents from county extension offices. Information on bulk
rates or copies for out-of-state purchasers is available from C.M. Hinton, Publications Distribution Center, IFAS Building 664, University of ...,.. .
Florida, Gainesville, Florida 32611. Before publicizing this publication, editors should contact this address to determine availability.