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Tomato comes from the kingdom Plantae, family Solanacaea and the genus, Solanium. Its botanical name is Lycopersicon esculentum.
The word "tomato" may refer to the plant or the edible, typically red, fruit that it bears. Having originated in America, the tomato was spread around the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas, and its many varieties are now widely grown, often in greenhouses in cooler climates.
The tomato is consumed in diverse ways, including raw, as an ingredient in many dishes and sauces, and in drinks. While it is botanically a fruit, it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes. The fruit is rich in lycopene which may have beneficial health effects.
The tomato belongs to the nightshade family. The plants typically grow to 1–3 meters (3–10 ft) in height and have a weak stem that often sprawls over the ground and vines over other plants. It is a perennial in its native habitat, although often grown outdoors in temperate climates as an annual. An average common tomato weighs 102–105 grams.[i]
Tomato has been in cultivation in Nigeria for a very long time. It is an important component of the daily diet, consumed both fresh and in paste form.
There are many vegetable fruits recognized in Nigeria, but, Tomato, as a vegetable fruit is a major food component, an ingredient utilized by every house hold and constitutes the national food security programme. The record confirmed that Nigeria produces approximately 1.8 million metric tons fresh fruits for domestic consumption, with national demand of about 2-3 million metric tons annually with demand gap of about 500,000metric tons.[ii]
Tomato grows well in a loamy soil, and thrives better in a soil with an acidic pH. It’s best grown during dry season as they do not really require a lot of rainfall for germination. Keep down weeds initially by cultivating lightly being careful not to damage roots. Water with an inch or so of water every week if there has been no rain and even if there has, wind conditions can dry a bed quickly so check the soil a few inches down to make sure it is still moist. A deep mulch after the plants are established will keep weeds at bay and retain moisture in the soil. Prune lower branches from suckers but leave some suckers on upper branches to protect fruits from the sun. Compost is usually applied on the plant after they flower.
The tomato is a major vegetable crop that has achieved tremendous popularity over the last century. It is grown in practically every country of the world - in outdoor fields, greenhouses and net houses. The tomato plant is very versatile and the crop can be divided into two categories; fresh market tomatoes and processing tomatoes. In both cases, world production and consumption has grown quite rapidly over the past 25 years.
Tomatoes, aside from being tasty, are very healthy as they are a good source of vitamins A and C. it also contains Lycopene; which is a very powerful antioxidant that can help prevent the development of many forms of cancer. Cooked tomatoes and tomato products are the best source of lycopene since the lycopene is released from the tomato when cooked. A raw tomato has about 20% of the lycopene content found in cooked tomatoes. However, raw or cooked tomatoes are considered the best source for this antioxidant.[iii]
Tomatoes are best left on the vine as long as possible. If any fall off before they appear ripe, place them in a paper bag with the stem up and store them in a cool, dark place. When they appear firm and very red in colour, then they can be picked, regardless of size. To freeze, fresh unblemished tomatoes are placed whole in freezer bags or containers. The skins will slip off when they defrost. Tomato can further be processed into puree, ketchup or used in the making/preservation of other food produce. For example, fish, beans and peas.
Tomatoes are considered to be one of the most economically important crops of all those that exist in the world. Economically speaking, tomatoes are worth a tremendous amount of money because they give more yields.
Tomatoes are also one of the main ingredients in hundreds of dishes and products that are sold in supermarkets throughout the world.
Tomatoes are also a popular choice by people who wish to grow fruits and vegetables in their own gardens. Not only can they be used raw in salads, but they are also an essential part of many recipes as well as many produced products such as tomato ketchup and tomato paste.
Tomatoes have many advantages over growing other types of crops, such as:
• Their high yield which results in their high economic value.
• They have very high nutritional value with high levels of pro-vitamin A and C. As well as being ranked first on their nutritional contribution to a human's diet.
• They are a short duration crop.
• They are very well suited for different cropping systems that are used on grains and legumes[iv]
Tomato is regarded as a fruit in some areas and as a vegetable in others, but whichever way you look at it, tomato is a highly nutritious food ingredient used by every tribe in Nigeria in the preparation of many food.
Its high demand has made it also a very lucrative business venture for individuals to go into. In time past, tomato varieties grown in the south west had dominance over all the other varieties in the market, but as the economy of the country expanded and the market for the globe looking type of tomato grown in the Northern part of the country became too small as a result of low consumption rate, the variety started gaining dominance in the southern market. Overtime this variety has dominated the Nigerian market.[v] With a population of over 140 million people and an estimated national population growth rate of 5.7% per annum, an average economic growth rate of 3.5% per annum in the past five years, Nigeria has a large market for tomato products. Also the investor can take advantage of the trade liberalization in the West African (ECOWAS) market to sell their products. In a recent publication, the Central Bank of Nigeria’s Governor Lamido Sanusi Lamido said that Nigeria will be sufficient in the production of tin tomato pastes by 2013 as production of Tomatoes will grow by 1000 per cent in Kano. Sanusi also said this feat will be achieved from a model developed to revitalised the real sector of the economy and bring farmers into the financial inclusion programme.[vi]
White flies, aphids, leaf miners and thorn worms are a few examples of pests that attack the tomato plant. Septoria Leaf Spot, early Blight, are both fungal infections that disturb the plant during its germination period. Control of these pests and diseases can either be by the use of pesticides or by practicing crop rotation.[vii]
Leaf miner(Tuta absoluta) being the most destructive, ruthless and resilient of them all. Tuta absoluta wipes off thousands of hectares of tomatoes in a matter of hours causing huge and devastating losses to the farmer. It was first discover in Nigeria in the year 2015 and caused a total wipe out of farms in the major producing areas located at the Northern part of the country. For more details on the description, monitoring methods and control of Tuta absoluta, click here.
FOR FURTHER ENQUIRIES,
[i] "Tomaat September 2010, RZ Seeds & Services" "Het gemiddeld vruchtgewicht ligt tussen de 102 en 105 gram en de kwaliteit is goed." 2010 rijkzwaan.nl
[ii] Culled from; the publication from the federal ministry of agriculture in Nigeria.
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