Fresh-market tomato production is very expensive. And due to fairly stable tomato prices for the last several years, to make more money growers must either increase yield (while holding costs even) or decrease expenses. Reducing expenses by even ten percent would be a significant benefit to producers.
The objective of this study was to reduce expenses by reducing plant populations while maintaining present yields. If the number of plants per acre are reduced, the number of stakes needed, transplants, labor, etc. will be reduced as well.
It was determined from this study that tomato producers may be able to increase income by decreasing expenses with wider plant spacings than currently used. If yields can be maintained (or even slightly decreased) at greater spacings, substantial savings could occur. Each producer would have to adopt a strategy suited to fit his/her particular operation.
During the growing season, farmers visited the plots, usually on a one-to-one basis, to observe the progress of the study. Much discussion resulted from this. The final results were published in an area-wide tomato newsletter in January of 2004. This reached a total of 112 people, many of them tomato producers in the 3-county area. A fact sheet was developed in conjunction with a Power Point presentation for distribution. The Power Point presentation was given at the Southern Region-American Society for Horticultural Science meeting in Tulsa in February of 2004.
One positive feedback from this study has already been received. Many of the tomato producers are presently unable to obtain the number of transplants expected. Utilizing data from this study, they will be able to plant their acreage with increased plant spacing if additional transplants are not obtained.