Our tomato seedlings in the greenhouse have for the most part flourished and once again, we are in the midst of transplanting them onto the first hectare of our nucleus farm.
As at the time this blog was written, ten blocks out of the fifteen blocks in “Tomato Jos Field 1” had been completed. Thanks to the generous contribution of Heinz Seed, #TeamTomatoJos is carrying out research on five different tomato seed varieties. We want to find out which variety or varieties (fingers crossed), will have the best results here in Nigeria, and yield the most fruit. The answer to that will be revealed in our randomized block trial. We divided our field into small “blocks” and transplanted the varieties into randomly selected blocks as a way to protect the trial against “bias” that could come from one part of the field having more nutritious soil or receiving more water than other parts. We want to make sure that any differences in yield are due to the performance of the tomato seed, not other external factors in the field!
Fun fact: did you know that there are more than 4,000 types of tomatoes that are bred specifically for processing? And that’s not even including the fresh market varieties, or cherry tomatoes, or the much-desired beefsteak tomatoes… If you visit our farm, you will see that the tomatoes we grow cannot really be identified by size. The variants we grow can be identified by shape and color: is it oval? Blocky? Or pear shaped? Is the fruit the standard tomato red color? Or is it highly saturated in color?
So you see, not all tomatoes are created equal. Apart from size, shape and color, some varieties are perfect for juices, some for paste, some for dicing, some for ketchup, and many more for other specifics. Right now, we want to sell the tomatoes we will harvest to the open markets and at the same time experiment on which tomato variants are suitable for paste; we also want to take note of the tomatoes that will taste good even after the extreme temperatures the fruits will be put through during the paste making process.
Meanwhile, some of our farm laborers are hard at work in the greenhouse; mixing and setting the peat moss in trays then, planting tomato seeds in preparation for the next season.
After seeding the trays, they are well covered and stored in the dark in order to induce the speed of the germination process….or so we hope. We seem to be suffering a setback. Major or minor factor, we cannot ascertain at this time but the temperatures in Panda, Nasarawa has intermittently dropped for several nights, for the past few weeks. We are fearful that the cold will hinder the growth of the seedlings in our open air green house. As you know, we planted five different tomato variants in our nursery but one variant (H1418) gravely disappointed us and though the type of peat moss we used was to blame, the major drop in temperature easily could have been another damaging factor. This is probably a sign for us not to put our complete trust in this variant as it may be mercurial. This time though, thankfully, our quick thinking Field Supervisor has devised a make shift plan. He tightly wound up the seeded trays with a thick black plastic nylon known as tarpaulin to trap any heat generated, inwards. We are hoping this temperature drop does not continue this way.
Whew! That’s probably more than you ever wanted to know about seeds and seedlings, so we’ll leave you here for now and hope to catch you next time! Stay tuned and be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram with handle @TeamTomatoJos.