Growing Methods

Q1.      How are most tomatoes grown in Britain?

A1.       In Britain tomatoes are grown predominantly under glass, although some are still grown outdoors in Jersey.  Glasshouses allow the tomato season to be extended from February until November with all year production being evaluated.  Under field conditions tomatoes can only be cultivated between July and October. Production is far higher under glasshouse conditions than from outdoor field crops, or crops grown under plastic in southern Europe.

Q2.      How do glasshouses help to prevent tomatoes getting damaged while growing?

A2.       Tomatoes are easily damaged by the wind, extremes of temperature or fluctuating weather conditions.  Glasshouses offer not only a long growing season but also provide shelter from the weather and protection from birds and other animals.

Q3.      How are conditions controlled under glasshouses?

A3.       Under glasshouse conditions, the aerial environment along with crop irrigation and nutrition is controlled using computers.  This also gives the opportunity to avoid disease infection and to use natural predators to control pests instead of sprays.  Increasingly irrigation systems are closed (i.e.: excess gets recycled, while leaves and old plants are composted, rather than being dumped).  Cultural systems in Britain are designed to minimise any impact on the environment. Bumblebees are used for pollination and pests are biologically controlled using natural predators rather than chemical sprays.

Q4.      How is the flavour in the tomatoes produced?

A4.       Flavour variations in tomatoes are related to the differences in the sugar and acid content of the fruit.  For the best flavour in a tomato crop, high sugar and relatively high acids are required.  High acids and low sugars will produce a sharp-tasting tomato, whereas when both sugar and acid levels are low, the flavour will be bland.

Q5.      From flowering how many days does it take for a tomato to reach full  ripeness?

A5.      It takes 40-60 days from flowering for a tomato to reach full ripeness, depending on temperature and the variety.

Q6.      How long does it take for a British tomato to reach the supermarket shelf?

A6.      It takes 1-3 days for a British tomato to reach the supermarket shelf from the time it is harvested.

Q7.      How does the sunlight and temperature affect tomato yield?

A7.       Sunlight increases tomato yields, rather than warm temperatures.  Very high temperatures may suppress yields and give poorer flavour and a shorter shelf-life. High temperatures also reduce the concentration of the red tomato pigment lycopene. The optimum temperature for lycopene synthesis in tomato fruits is  16-21șC, exactly the range at which British tomato growers aim to control the temperature of their glasshouses.

Q8.      How does pollination in the glasshouses work?

A8.       Bumblebees are used for pollination, although according to the Tomato Growers Association, rock music is
           also played in some nurseries.  The beat of the music causes vibration which helps pollination and thus
           increases yield


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