All-Season Tomato Is Money-Maker
Tomatoes usually don’t grow well during the rainy season. They are often affected by diseases brought about by the rains. And that is the reason why the price of this vegetable is high during the rainy months. And that is also the reason why experts are working hard to look for technologies then will make growing tomatoes economically viable during the rainy season.
One strategy that has worked well is to grow the tomatoes inside a greenhouse. This system works wonders. Tomatoes will grow well and fruit well inside a greenhouse if given the right cultural practices. The only problem is that a greenhouse is very expensive, like the kind that comes from Israel.
Another strategy is taken by plant breeders. They try to develop varieties that are resistant to rainy conditions. And one of the latest that was produced by the private sector is the hybrid Diamante from East-West Seed Company. This is a variety that does not only perform well during the rainy season but also during the hot summer months. It is heat-tolerant so that fruits will set well even under high temperature. There are many tomatoes that will bear flower but will not set fruit under very hot conditions.
Dionisio Rubiano of Sariaya, Quezon, is one fellow who attests that Diamante is a high-yielding variety. As such it could enable the farmer to make money even if the price for the harvest is relatively low. Last February 6, Rubiano and a partner (a relative) planted 6,000 seedlings of Diamante on 2,500 square meters of land. The cost of the seeds was P850.
Exactly 54 days after planting, Rubiano said they picked their first harvest of 17 kilos. This was followed by 96 kilos three days later. They harvested the ripe fruits every three days and when we visited their crop on April 22, they had just picked their eighth harvest of 750 kilos. Up to that time, they had harvested a total of 3,314 kilos which they sold at P6 to P10 per kilo. Total sales was more than P28,000.
Rubiano said that although the farm gate price of their tomatoes was relatively low, he said it is really profitable to plant a high-yielding hybrid like Diamante. From their first eight harvests, they had already recovered all their expenses with a good profit to boot. They expect. to get about 10 more harvests from their standing crop, and those will virtually be all profit, minus the little expenses in harvesting and marketing.
Rubiano and his partner are growing their crop of Diamante in a portion of eight hectares that they have been renting from the owner for P4,000 per hectare a year.
The farm is a former coconut plantation whose coconut trees were all cut for one reason or another. The soil is friable and is just right for growing tomatoes. After thorough land preparation, they planted the seedlings in somewhat elevated rows distanced one meter apart; the seedlings were set 50 centimeters apart in the rows. The plants are kept upright by means of string trellises kept in place by a series of bamboo stakes.
The slightly elevated rows make it convenient for the partners to irrigate their plants weekly. Water is passed between the rows by means of a water pump.
The plants are also fertilized every 15 days by applying a combination of urea (75 percent) and muriate of potash (25 percent).
The partners will also be planting tomatoes during the coming rainy months. Ric Reyes of East-West Seed says that the Diamante is even more productive during the rainy season. They will only have to use plastic mulch on the planting beds to moderate the entry of rainwater in the soil. This will also keep down the weeds which grow fast during the rainy season.
Farmers could expect much better price for their harvests during the rainy season although there is also the risk that extremely bad weather could affect their crops. That’s the usual risk a farmer has to contend with. If the weather cooperates, however, the farmer could make a fortune.
At any rate, it is the high-yielding varieties like Diamante that could help farmers to become more competitive in their farming even if prices of farm produce are relatively low from their end.