The Month of Red Alert in Indian Kitchens
The month of July saw tomato prices hitting the three-figure mark, leaving hapless consumers with no alternative but to reduce their tomato consumption. The price rise was a result of frequent rains in the tomato producing states such as Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh, which not only damaged the crop, but also affected transportation. Tomato prices usually increase during the monsoon months from June to September because the stock perishes easily during this season and the shelf life of tomatoes is four days.
Tomato is an essential ingredient in every kitchen because of its nutritive value as well as its versatility. Tomatoes are used for soups, salads, pickles, ketchup, purees, sauces, vegetables, dals and in many other ways, therefore making them indispensable to cooking. Tomato has very few competitors in the value addition chain of processing.
India stands among the top three tomato-producing countries worldwide. Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha are the major tomato growing states. The country’s tomato production is estimated to be higher by 15 percent at 187 lakh tonnes in 2016-17 crop year (July- June). Despite this, poor infrastructure often becomes a hindrance for the yield to reach markets on time.
Tomato is a warm season crop and thrives well in temperatures ranging from 10°C to 30°C, with optimum range of 21°C – 24°C. It requires different climatic range in various stages of growth and for the fruit quality. The plant requires low to medium rainfall. A long dry spell causes cracking of the fruit while bright sunshine at the time of fruition gives the fruits their dark red color.
Challenges Faced by the Tomato Plant
The tomato plant faces various challenges, some of the most common and problematic ones being:
- Fungal growth
- Puffiness- Caused by poor soil nutrition and under-fertilization
- Attack by insects – The list of insects attacking the tomato plant is long- Acari mites, aphids, leafhoppers, green vegetable bugs, cutworms, eggfruit caterpillars, weevils, crickets, locusts and many more. Insect attacks damage the plants, leading to fruit rotting, leaf curling, wilting and defoliation, fungal diseases and poor crop yield.
Crop rotation is a traditional means of pest control and helps in breaking life cycles of insects and pests. Trap crops are also effective in controlling pests. Marigold and cucumber are commonly used as trap crops with tomato to attract the tomato fruit worm, thus protecting the tomato crop when inter-planted with it.
Advanced Solutions by HPM India
There are various insects and fungi that attack the tomato plant and traditional methods are not always effective for all types of attacks. (Mancozeb 75% WP) and Hindustan M-45, an insecticide and fungicide respectively, from the wide range of formulations offered by HPM India are effective solutions that are being used widely by the farming community to keep the crops safe.