Tree Tomato Production
Tamarillo, known as Tree Tomato in Kenya, is a rapidly growing tree from the Solanaceae family that can reach a height of around 5 meters.
Typically, the tree develops a single upright trunk with lateral branches where flowers and fruits dangle. The leaves are large, uncomplicated, and persistent, emitting a strong pungent scent. The flowers are pink-white, appearing in clusters of 10-50 blooms. Each cluster yields 1 to 6 fruits.
In Kenya, tree tomatoes are cultivated in various regions, including Migori, Kisii, Kakamega, Meru, Murang’a, Embu, Nyeri, Nyandarua, and Kericho. The areas where citrus crops are grown provide favorable conditions for tree tomatoes.
The fruit itself is an egg-shaped, many-seeded berry that resembles a medium-sized tomato, although it does not belong to the true tomato family. It can be consumed fresh by scooping out the flesh from halved pieces.
If the fruit is to be used for other purposes, such as cooking, the skin needs to be removed. This can be easily done by pouring boiling water over the fruits and allowing them to stand for approximately 5 minutes before peeling.
The flesh of the tree tomato can be added to stews to impart a unique flavor, and the fruits can be used in salads as both a delicious and decorative element, enhancing the appeal of desserts.
Fresh tree tomato is often blended with sugar and water to create a refreshing juice.
Peak production is typically achieved after 3-6 years, depending on the specific cultivar, and the crop has an average lifespan of about 12 years.
Tree tomato varieties are primarily differentiated by their color, and there are several types available:
- Red fruit variety: This particular variety is commonly utilized for fresh market consumption because of its attractive color, which appeals to consumers.
- Yellow fruit variety: These fruits possess a superior flavor, making them ideal for preserving purposes.
- Dark-red or Black variety: Fruits from this variety are characterized by their large size and higher quality, which sets them apart from other types.
Tree tomatoes thrive in a subtropical climate.
To promote robust growth, they require well-drained and fertile soil that is enriched with organic matter. The soil should be permeable since the plants are not tolerant of waterlogging.
In their natural habitat, tree tomatoes are found in soils with a pH ranging from 5 to 8.5 and they cannot tolerate compacted soil.
While tree tomatoes can be cultivated under irrigation, they thrive in regions with rainfall between 600 and 4000 millimeters. Areas with prolonged drought are not suitable for this crop, and it requires an ample water supply, especially during the dry season. Applying mulch helps retain moisture in the plantation and also reduces weed growth.
Ideally, tree tomatoes flourish in annual temperatures ranging from 15 to 20 °C. They are intolerant to frost (temperatures below -2 °C) and cannot withstand drought stress.
Tree tomatoes perform well at altitudes ranging from 1,500m to 3,000m above sea level.
Tree tomatoes can be propagated through seeds or cuttings, but the most straightforward method is by using seedlings.
When grown from seedlings, the plants initially develop straight trunks that reach a height of approximately 1.5 to 1.8 meters before branching out. On the other hand, cuttings tend to form shorter, bushier plants with branches that are closer to the ground.
Selecting the right planting site holds significant importance in tree tomato cultivation.
To protect the seeds from soil-borne pests, soil-borne fungal infections, and seed dormancy, it is recommended to treat them. This can be accomplished by drenching the nursery with a mixture of PYRAMID 700WP (100g), LOYALTY 700WDG (10g), and OPTIMIZER (20ml), all dissolved in 20 liters of water.
When planting tree tomatoes, it is advised to maintain a distance of 4 feet between each plant and 5 feet between rows.
For the propagation of tree tomatoes through cuttings, it is essential to select plants that are 1-2 years old, with a thickness of 1.5 to 2.5 cm and a length of 45 to 75 cm. These cuttings are directly sown with a spacing of 3×3 meters.
Plants grown from cuttings tend to branch out earlier, resulting in more shrub-like growth forms that are better suited for exposed sites. However, it is important to note that they should not be allowed to bear fruit during the first year of growth.
Maintaining weed-free fields is crucial for optimal crop performance, as weeds compete with the tree tomatoes for essential growth factors such as nutrients, space, water, and sunlight. Weeds can also harbor pathogens, further affecting the crop. Using a non-selective herbicide like CLAMPDOWN 480SL (200ml/20l) is recommended for effective weed control.
Mulching provides several benefits to the crop, including moisture conservation, suppression of weed growth, nutrient supply, improvement of soil structure and water infiltration, prevention of soil erosion, regulation of topsoil temperature, and reduction of pest incidence.
To maximize and stabilize production, it is important to provide adequate water and nutrient inputs as needed. Tree tomatoes have a shallow root system and require a continuous supply of water. Water stress can lead to reduced plant growth and lower production.
Protecting the plants from strong winds is essential as their shallow root system does not provide sufficient stability, and the lateral branches are fragile and prone to breaking, especially when carrying fruits.
When the tree reaches a height of around 1 to 1.5 meters, it is advisable to selectively prune the roots on one side and lean the tree in the opposite direction (towards the midday sun) at an angle of about 30 to 45 degrees. Pruning helps control fruit size, plant size, and harvest date. It also encourages fruiting branches to grow along the entire trunk rather than just at the top.
During the fruit-bearing stage, tree tomatoes require support to prevent branches from breaking under the weight of the fruits. Due to their shallow root system, the trees are susceptible to being blown over by strong winds.
PESTS AND DISEASES MANAGEMENT
Tree tomatoes are generally resistant to pests, but there are a few common ones to be aware of:
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects that come in black or greenish colors. They feed on sap by piercing tender shoots, particularly on the lower leaf surface. This can result in stunted growth of shoots and curled, twisted leaves. Aphids also secrete honeydew, which promotes the growth of sooty mold, affecting photosynthesis. To control aphids, you can spray KINGCODE ELITE 50EC (10ml/20l), PENTAGON 50EC (10ml/20l), or PRESENTO 200SP (5g/20l).
Whiteflies are tiny insects with white wings that feed on sap by inserting their stylets into leaf veins. This feeding causes damage to the plant, leading to yellowing, downward curling, and eventual drying of leaves. Controlling whiteflies can be achieved by spraying TAURUS 500SP (10g/20l), KINGCODE ELITE 50EC (10ml/20l), or PROFILE 440EC (30ml/20l).
Nematodes are microscopic parasites found in the soil. Their infestation can cause wilting of the plant. Infested plants may exhibit distorted, swollen roots with knots or galls. Eventually, these roots can rot, resulting in the death of the plant. To combat nematodes, you can drench the planting holes with ALONZE 50EC (6ml/20l) or mix 2kg of ADVENTURE 5GR with 50kg of basal fertilizer during planting or top dressing.
Remember to follow the recommended dosage and safety guidelines when using any pesticides or treatments.
If left uncontrolled during the early stages, these diseases can result in significant yield losses.
To prevent disease invasion and protect the crops, it is recommended to apply CADILLAC 800WP, a preventive fungicide, before the onset of disease.
This fungal infection is characterized by the development of gray-white powdery growth primarily on leaves and stems, leading to distortion. As the disease progresses, the plant may eventually wilt. To combat powdery mildew, you can spray RANSOM 600WP (15g/20l), DISCOVERY 400SC (10ml/20l), or DUCASSE 250EC (20ml/20l).
Blight infection typically starts with the appearance of dark brown spots with concentric patterns on older leaves. As the infection advances, the affected leaves turn yellow and eventually fall off. On stems, you may observe spots without clear contours that enlarge as the severity increases. For blight control, spraying EXEMPO CURVE 250SC (15ml/20l), FORTRESS GOLD (40g/20l), or MEGAPRODE LOCK 525WP (15g/20l) is recommended.
Mosaic is a viral disease transmitted mechanically and through aphids in a nonpersistent mode. Leaves affected by mosaic show reduced size and patches of dark-green tissue alternating with yellow-green patches. The overall growth of the plant is stunted, and the quality of the fruits is greatly diminished. To control aphid vectors, you can use KINGCODE ELITE 50EC (10ml/20l), PENTAGON 50EC (10ml/20l), or PRESENTO 200SP (5g/20l).
Always adhere to the recommended application rates and safety guidelines when using fungicides and pesticides.
NUTRITION & NUTRITIONAL DEFICIENCIES
To ensure healthy growth, tree tomatoes require consistent fertilization, supplying both macro and micronutrients through basal and foliar fertilizers.
During planting, it is beneficial to mix the soil with manure and/or DAP (diammonium phosphate). Top dressing can be done using CAN (calcium ammonium nitrate).
To promote rapid root development and stimulate plant growth, spraying GOLDCHANCE SUPER START (50g/20l) or LAVENDER (20ml/20l) is recommended.
For robust vegetative growth, it is important to supply sufficient nitrogen, which is essential for foliage development and photosynthesis. This can be achieved by spraying GOLDCHANCE SUPER GROWTH (50g/20l) or LAVENDER (20ml/20l).
During the flowering and fruiting stages, spraying GOLDCHANCE SUPER FLOWERS & FRUITS (50g/20l), VITABOR GOLD (60ml/20l), and DIMIPHITE (10ml/20l) is advised. These fertilizers provide the necessary nutrient elements to induce flowering, prevent flower abortion, and ensure the production of high-quality fruits.
It is worth noting that applying OPTIMIZER (10ml/20l) enhances the crop’s immunity, helps manage stress, and improves overall performance. This can be done at any growth stage of the crop.
When trees are deficient in nitrogen, their growth rate significantly decreases, and the leaves start turning yellow, beginning with the older ones. To correct this deficiency, you can spray LAVENDER (20ml/20l) or GOLDCHANCE SUPER GROWTH (50g/20l).
Plants experiencing phosphorus deficiency exhibit stunted growth, shortened internodes, purplish leaves, and produce poor-quality flowers that yield low-quality fruits. To address this deficiency, you can spray DIMIPHITE (30ml/20l), GOLDCHANCE SUPER START (50g/20l), or LAVENDER (20ml/20l).
In the case of potassium deficiency, young leaves become small, dull, and cupped, while older leaves develop marginal chlorosis. In severe cases, the leaves may dry out. To correct this deficiency, you can spray DIMIPHITE (30ml/20l), GOLDCHANCE SUPER FLOWERS & FRUITS (50g/20l), or PLANT SOUL (30ml/20l).
When trees suffer from boron deficiency, the growing points of the affected trees die, and the leaves become chlorotic and eventually necrotic. This deficiency significantly reduces fruit quality. To address this, you can spray VITABOR GOLD (20ml/20l) or BOND CHANCE (50ml/20l).
Remember to follow the recommended dosage and safety guidelines when using fertilizers and treatments.
MATURITY, HARVESTING & POST-HARVEST HANDLING
The tree tomato exhibits rapid growth and can bear fruit within 1.5 to 2 years, although under favorable conditions, fruiting may occur even sooner. The plant is not influenced by day length.
Unless the tree has been pruned, the fruits do not mature simultaneously.
Harvesting of tree tomatoes is done when the fruits develop a red or yellow color. The harvesting process simply involves pulling the fruits from the shrubs with a snapping motion, leaving the stalk attached.
The harvested fruits can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 10 weeks. However, it is important to note that temperatures below 38°F can cause discoloration of the fruit skin.
- When conducting any foliar spray, it is recommended to mix the product (insecticide, fungicide, foliar feed, or herbicide) with INTEGRA (3ml/20l). INTEGRA serves as a sticker, spreader, and penetrant, improving the efficacy of the product.
- When applying basal fertilizers and manure, it is advisable to mix them with HUMIPOWER at a rate of 1kg of Humipower into 50kg of fertilizer or 1 ton of manure. Humipower enhances nutrient uptake by the crop, stimulates growth, and improves soil structure, among other benefits.
- Timely application of pesticides and fertilizers is crucial for optimal results.