The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
research may be found on the
Electronic Data Information Source
site maintained by the Florida
Cooperative Extension Service.
Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Gulf Coast Research and Education Center
5007 60th Street East, Bradenton, FL 34203
TOMATILLO VARIETY AND SPACING TRIALS, SPRING 1993
D. N. Maynard'
Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa Brot.) is a solanaceous fruit vegetable that is the
principal ingredient in fresh and cooked green chili sauces used in Mexican
cuisine. Tomatillo is also known as husk tomato, tomate de cascara, tomate
verde, tomate de fresadilla, and miltomate (Quiros, 1984). Tomatillo is widely
grown in Mexico and Guatemala, and has been since preColumbian times.
Efforts to popularize the tomatillo and Cape gooseberry (P. peruviana L.) in
Florida and the Caribbean in the early 1950's have been summarized (Morton and
Russell, 1954). Some success was achieved with both species as winter home
garden novelties in south Florida, however, there are no reports of successful
Commercial production data in the U.S. are available only from California where
176 harvested acres produced 1255 tons valued at $880,000 in 1991. In addition
to the California-produced crop, 20,592 tons were imported in 1991 (Vegetables
and Specialties, 1993), primarily from Mexico. It is estimated that there are
27,000 acres of tomatillos grown in Mexico (Myers, 1991).
In time of transplanting trials conducted in Louisiana with three varieties in
each of eight trials (Can et al., 1992), yields above 15,000 Ib/acre occurred in
only three trials. The highest yield of 23,000 Ib/acre was produced by
'Rendidora' in a trial that was transplanted on 1 September. It was reported the
'Rendidora' produces about 25,000 Ib/acre in Mexico.
In Mexico, marketable yields of 'Rendidora' tomatillo were higher at an in-row
spacing of 16 inches than in-row spacings of 20 or 24 inches and with row
spacings of 40 inches and 50 inches than with 60 or 70 inch row spacing (Garz6n
Tizando and Garay Alvarez, 1979). The highest marketable tomatillo yield
obtained in this trial was 35,680 Ib/acre.
A preliminary trial was conducted at this location in the spring 1992 season.
Plants were established from seed extracted from market purchased fruit.
Marketable yield was equivalent to 17,131 Ib/acre and average fruit weight was
1.25 oz. A fruit sample examined by a local wholesaler had fruit size and
condition superior to that received from his usual out-of-state sources.
'Professor and Vegetable Extension Specialist.
The object of the trials reported here was to ascertain the feasibility of
commercial tomatillo production in west-central Florida.
Materials and Methods
Soil samples from the experimental area obtained before fertilization were
analyzed by the University of Florida Extension Soil Testing Laboratory (Hanlon
and DeVore, 1989): pH = 7.0 and Mehlich I extractable P = 69, K = 12, Mg = 92,
Ca = 712, Zn = 6.0, Cu = 2.4, and Mn = 8.0 ppm.
The EauGallie fine sand was prepared in early February 1993 by incorporation of
0-1.2-0 lb N-P205-KO2 per 100 linear bed feet (Ibf). Beds were formed and
fumigated with methylbromide:chloropicrin, 67:33 at 2.3 lb/100 Ibf. Banded
fertilizer was applied in shallow grooves on the bed shoulders at 3.1-0-4.3 lb
N-P20O-K20/100 Ibf after the beds were pressed and before the black polyethylene
mulch was applied. The total fertilizer applied was equivalent to 270-105-375
lb N-P20O-K20/A. The final beds were 32 inches wide and 8 inches high, and were
spaced on 5-ft centers, with six beds between seepage irrigation/drainage ditches
which were on 41-ft centers.
Tomatillo seeds were planted in a peat-lite growing mix in No. 150 Todd planter
flats (1.5 x 1.5 x 2.5 in. cells) on 1 February. The tomatillo transplants were
produced by a commercial plant grower.
For the variety trial, transplants were set in holes punched in the polyethylene
mulch at 2-ft in-row spacing on 16 March. Transplants in the spacing trial were
set at 1, 2, or 3-ft in-row spacing on 25 March. Each variety plot and each
spacing plot had ten plants. The plots were replicated three times and were
arranged in randomized, complete block designs.
Weed control in row middles was by cultivation and applications of paraquat.
Pesticides were applied as needed for control of diseases (mancozeb, copper salts
of fatty and rosin acids, and chlorothalonil) and insects (permethrin,
insecticidal soap, endosulfan, methomyl, fenpropathrin, methamidophos, and
Fruit were harvested on 2, 11, and 21 June. Marketable fruit were considered to
be greater than 1 inch in diameter, free from decay, and fully enclosed by the
husk. Marketable fruit were counted and weighed. The resulting data from the
variety trial were subjected to analysis of variance and mean separation was by
Duncan's multiple range test. Regression analysis was used for data separation
in the spacing trial.
Results and Discussion
Temperature and rainfall during the experimental period did not vary greatly from
the 39-year averages (Stanley, 1993). However, June average maximum temperature
did exceed the 39-year average; rainfall for April exceeded and for May was less
than the 39-year average.
Despite a rigorous pest management program, tomatoes in adjacent and nearby plots
were infested with pinworms and sweetpotato whiteflies and infected with
bacterial speck. The tomatillo plants were not affected even though the same
pest management schedule was used. On the other hand, rugose, chlorotic,
sometimes straplike leaves on some plants suggested the possibility of virus
infection. Ten plants showing such symptoms were sampled on 10 June and tested
by DAS-ELISA for tobacco etch virus (TEV), potato virus y (PVY), potato virus X,
tobacco mosaic virus, tomato spotted wilt, and cucumber mosaic virus. Two plants
were positive, one each for TEV and PVY. Nucleic acid spot hybridization assay
results showed one plant to be positive for tomato mottle virus.
Early yields (Table 2) ranged from 68 20-1b cartons/acre for 'Green Purple' to
468 cartons/acre for 'Tomatillo'. Average fruit weight at early harvest varied
from 0.98 oz for 'Green Purple' to 1.22 oz for 'Toma Verde' (Petoseed). Total
yield varied from 804 cartons/acre for 'Green Purple' to 1461 for 'Tomatillo'.
Average total fruit weight ranged from 1.02 oz for 'Toma Verde' (Johnny's) to
1.25 oz for 'Tomatillo'.
fruit weight were not affected by in-row spacings of 1, 2, and 3-ft
However, harvest was more difficult at the 1-ft in-row spacing
the density of plant material.
Maximum yields i'n the variety trial were obtained from 'Tomatillo' 29,200
Ib/acre and from the 1-ft in-row spacing 24,920 Ib/acre in the spacing trial.
These yields can be compared with 14,261 Ib/acre from commercial plantings in
California in 1991 (Vegetables and Specialties, 1993), 23,000 1b/acre in
Louisiana trials (Can et al., 1992), and 35,680 Ib/acre maximum plot yields in
Mexico (Garz6n Tizando and Garay Alvarez, 1979). These comparative yields
suggest that commercial tomatillo production in west-central Florida is likely
to be favorable economically.
The information contained in this report is a summary of experimental results and
should not be used as recommendations for crop production. Where trade names are
used, no discrimination is intended and no endorsement is implied.
Can, F., M. C. Rush, R. A. Valverde, J. L. Griffin,
J. Blackmon, and P. W. Wilson. 1992. Tomatillo: A
for Louisiana. Louisiana Agriculture 35(2)21-24.
Garz6n Tiznado, J. A. and R. Garay Alvarez. 1979.
poplacion sobre el vendimiento y calidad de fruto e
tomate de cascara (Physalis ixocarpa Brot.). Proc.
Hanlon, E. A. and J. M. DeVore. 1989. IFAS exten
chemical procedures and training manual. Fla. Coo
R. N. Story, W. A. Young, W.
potential new vegetable crop
Influencia de la densidad de
n el cultivar 'Rendidora' de
Trop. Reg. Amer. Soc. Hort.
sion soil testing laboratory
p. Ext. Circ. 812.
Morton, J. F. and 0. S. Russell. 1954. The cape gooseberry and the Mexican husk
tomato. Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 67:261-266.
Myers, C. 1991. Tomatillo. SMC-034 Specialty and minor crops handbook. Univ.
Calif. Div. Agr. Nat. Res. Pub. 3346.
Quiros, C. F. 1984. Overview of the genetics and breeding of husk tomato.
Stanley, C. D.
1993. Temperature and rainfall report for 1992.
Vegetables and Specialties.
Res. Ser., Washington, DC.
Situation and outlook yearbook 1993.
Table 1. Temperature and rainfall at the Gulf Coast Research and
Education Center for 16 March to 21 June 1993 and 39-year
averages (Stanley, 1993).
Average Daily Temperature (oF)
1993 39-year average Rainfall (in.)
Month' Max. Min. Max. Min. 1993 39-year average
March (16-31) 77 58 77 55 0.20 3.40
April 80 57 82 60 4.33 1.68
May 86 64 87 64 1.53 3.16
June (1-21) 93 70 89 70 0.83 7.97
11993 data are for the dates shown, 39-year averages
Table 2. Tomatillo yields and average fruit weight.
Education Center. Spring 1993.
are for the entire
Gulf Coast Research and
Early Harvest1 Total Harvest
Seed Yield Avg. fruit Yield Avg. fruit
Entry Source (ctn/acre) wt (oz) (ctn/acre)2 wt (oz)
Tomatillo Burpee 468 a3 1.18 ab 1416 a 1.25 a
Toma Verde Petoseed 375 ab 1.22 a 1281 a 1.15 ab
Toma Verde Johnny's 376 ab 1.01 bc 865 a 1.02 b
Green Purple Rogers NK 68 b 0.98 c 804 a 1.20 ab
test, 5% level.
"Early harvest represents the first of three harvests.
2Carton = 20 Ibs, acre = 8712 Ibf.
3Mean separation in columns by Duncan's multiple range
Table 3. Effects of in-row spacing on early and total yield and
weight of 'Toma Verde' tomatillo. Gulf Coast Research
Center. Spring 1993.
Early Harvest' Total Harvest
In-row Yield Avg. fruit Yield Avg. fruit
Spacing (ft) (ctn/acre)2 wt (oz) (ctn/acre)2 wt (oz)
1 227 1.45 1246 1.47
2 353 1.31 1235 1.37
3 334 1.41 783 1.63
Significance NS NS NS NS
'Early harvest represents the first of three harvests.
2Carton = 20 Ibs, acre = 8712 Ibf.