Grafted Muthakwa tree tomato plant. Photo courtesy.
Kenyan farmers can now grow and earn more with grafted Muthakwa tree tomato seedlings variety that can mature in eight months and has high output of up to 100kg per plant annually as compared with other varieties that yield about 80kg a year and take two years to bear fruits.
The variety which results from grafting Red Oratia tree tomato with bug weed (Muthakwa), a wild tree that grows in any condition naturally has been introduced by Oxfarm, an online farmers market place.
“The main reason of grafting tree tomato with muthakwa is because the tree (muthakwa) is never affected by nematodes and has a tap-root making it ideal to get nutrients from the soil,” said David Gitonga, Oxfarm agronomist.
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The tree grows taller, strong and have many branches hence it is able to carry a big load meaning it does not abort that much. It is also not affected by nematodes and thus long lifespan of more than six years.
“Grafting on any crop is done to increase production. What many people don not know is that normal tree tomato does not have tap root but fibrous roots, and this makes it impossible for the tree to get enough water and nutrients from the soil,” said Gitonga.
Besides being drought resistance due to its tap root system which grow deep in the soil to fetch for the underground waters, the grafted tree tomato is also resistant to pest and diseases.
In addition, it is a fast-growing tree that grows up to 2-5 meters. The tree usually forms a single upright trunk with lateral branches.
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Climate and soil requirement
The tree tomato prefers subtropical climate and they can grow in many parts of Kenya with rainfall between 600-4000 millimeters and annual temperatures between 15 and 25 °C.
It is intolerant to frost (below -2 °C) and drought stress.
Tree tomato plants grow best in light, deep, fertile soils, however, soils must be permeable since the plants are not tolerant to water-logging.
The plants grow well on soils with a pH of 5 to 7.5.
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Planting, spraying and irrigation
At a good spacing of 6ft by 6ft and well dug holes measuring 2ft by 2ft, an acre can accommodate 1200 – 1800 plants. The spacing helps in roots penetration and also to be able to accommodate enough manure.
“Before planting the seedlings, add a bucket of well decomposed manure into each hole and mix well with top soil. Plant your grafted seedlings by first ensuring you have watered your soil well or plant during rainy season. Add mulching to every stem of your plants,” said Gitonga.
In case of a dry season apply irrigation either drip irrigation or bucket irrigation. For conventional farming apply NPK fertilizer after two weeks of planting this will ensure faster growth and root development.
A farmer can protect his plants from pest and diseases from early stages by splaying protective and curing pesticides and fungicides at a good interval depending with the rate of infestation.
CAN fertilizer can be applied three times through the entire growth season.
Spray your plants with foliar feeds to ensure faster and stronger plants and also during flowering to boost more flowers and ensure they do not drop.
Pest and diseases
Tree tomato is fairly resistant to most diseases and pests. However, the tree is prone to powdery mildew, which causes the leaves to fall off. Application of copper oxychloride (allowed in organic farming) can control the disease. The main pests that attack the tree include the aphids, thrips, whiteflies and nematodes (grafted tree tomato to control nematodes).
“Oxfarm buy all the fruits from our Farmers both for export (organically grown) and for local market. We have never satisfied even a fraction of the local market. Our main buyers for local market are Super markets, Marigiti and Githurai in Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu and Eldoret. We buy from all comers of our country,” said Gitonga.
The current market price of tree tomato fruits is between sh80-150 a kilo.
Gitonga can be reached on +254712075915