Pest control in tomatoes for processing
Processed tomato products fall into two categories: high value products and soft products. High value includes whole peel products such as whole tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and salsa. Ketchup, sauces, and juice are considered soft products. Tomatoes used for high value products receive higher market prices. Approximately 80% of the tomatoes raised in Indiana go into high value products.
Growers must meet quality standards set for tomatoes by each processor. Extreme damage from diseases and insects can render tomatoes unusable. High value products require tomatoes to be free from blemishes caused by diseases and insects and to be a uniform red color. Uneven color results from defoliation (too much sun) or heavy weed infestations (too little sun). Tomatoes failing to meet quality standards for whole peel products may be used for lower value soft products.
Growers plant tomatoes on a three-year rotation, typically, with corn and soybeans or wheat. Preparation for the tomato crop begins the preceding fall, following harvest. The field is tilled to form beds 67 inches high and 5.5 feet wide. About half of the growers raise tomatoes on beds based on the fields drainage. An application of fertilizer is made in the fall.
The processor contracts with greenhouses to raise tomato transplants. Seeding in the greenhouse is done in March. In most cases the processor supplies growers with transplants. A small number of growers raise tomato transplants in their own greenhouse.
The grower meets with the processor in the spring to sign contracts and set prices for the upcoming crop and determine planting dates. Planting dates are scheduled to maintain a steady flow of tomatoes to the processing plant.