The production of tomato is unlike any other crop in Jordan. Around 32% of all cultivated crops grown are tomatoes. Regular tomatoes are generally grown in two areas, from September to May in the Jordan Valley and from April to August in the Highlands. For open field tomatoes, the Northern Highlands area around Mafraq is very popular, contributing approximately 18% of the tomato cultivated area of Jordan.
Most of the tomato production is for the local market. Tomatoes accounted for around 65% of all vegetable exports in 2015, and the main export partners for this product are Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States. More recently, production of specialty tomatoes such as plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and even ‘tiger’ tomatoes have gained in popularity as a niche product for higher-end consumer markets.
Tomatoes in Jordan are prone to harmful insects like Tuta absoluta and thrips, which visibly damage the fruit of the crop from the outside. Sulphur is often applied to tomato crops to protect it from Red Mites and Powdery Mildew. The so called Tobamovirus also affects an increasing number of farms in Jordan Valley. Symptoms of the disease makes the fruit unmarketable. Once the virus is introduced in an area, control measures are very limited and mainly rely on elimination of infected plants and strict hygiene measures.
For this crop, Holland Horti Support Jordan works together with partner farmers on the below intervention areas.
Improvement of irrigation & fertilizer practices
Based on an extensive analyses of the soil and water quality and current fertilizer practices, Wageningen creates regional fertigation strategies for partner farmers. Farmers at strategic locations for the project have received water gauges to start monitoring their water usage for the piloted areas involved in the project.
Farmer companies implementing the strategy are provided with evidence-based advice on the optimal fertilizer and irrigation use. The desired result is a correct use of irrigation and fertilizers, which will increase crop growth and quality and may contribute to reducing water and fertilizer costs. Local staff also provide a regularly check on the nitrogen content and dissolved salts (EC-rating) of the soil. Part of this strategy is to get a better indication of how much water and fertilizer is being used per greenhouse or dunum in order to develop more efficient fertilizer applications and reduced water use.
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Many farmers spray plant protection agents such as pesticides and herbicides on the basis of the day of the week. This so called 'calendar spraying' does not keep into account whether it is actually necessary to apply plant protection or if it is more favourable to wait. This practice and a lack of registering the application of plant protection has led to many products being found to exceed maximum residue levels (MRLs) when entering export markets. If MRLs are found to be too high, the exporter receives a warning and the product is destroyed, thereby causing losses all across the value chain. Addressing this issue at the farm level is therefore a priority with both government and private sector.
In order to save costs and reduce the chemical residues, Wageningen Plant Research has developed a monitoring strategy for the application of plant protection agents, and for monitoring the prevalence of the harmful insects Tuta absoluta, (for tomato) and Thrips (for other supported vegetable crops).
Partner farmers are supported on a plant protection strategy and have started:
- Registering their spraying schedule;
- Checking the amount applied with a spraying paper;
- Registering the times of harvesting after spraying plant protection agents, to avoid exceeding maximum residue limits (MRLs);
- Applying pheromone traps and sticky traps for monitoring the prevalence of Tuta Absoluta (tomato only);
- Applying sticky traps for monitoring the prevalence of Thrips (cucumber, sweet pepper, tomato, squash, cabbage);
Wageningen Plant Research and Advance Consulting have developed advice charts on the selection and application of plant protection agents for the different vegetable crops. These advice charts provide guidelines for the selection and responsible use of effective agro-chemicals against the most common pests and diseases in Jordan.
The project is also testing out a mobile fogging system for pesticide application in tunnels with vegetable crops. Advantages of this system are currently being trialled but could lead to:
- A sharp reduction of plant protection agents applied, leading to lower or no residues and reduced costs;
- Reduction in labour costs due to time saving;
- A more even application of the plant protection agent and thus increased effectiveness;
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Growing techniques for greenhouses
The project is piloting several horticultural growing techniques that could serve as cost-effective and simple solutions for our partner farmers.
The project is testing the use of leaf blowers to increase pollination in greenhouses. Leaf blowers could replace the expensive and time consuming process of pollination in greenhouses. Most Jordanian farmers use a combination of hormones, bumble bees, and vibrating devices on the stem to pollinate the flowers of the crop.
The use of leaf blowers in greenhouses could lead to:
- A higher rate of pollination and thus more even fruit setting and higher production;
- Better quality of the fruit;
- Reduction in costs due to time saving on pollination and procurement of expensive hormones.
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The project is also trialling hooks to improve the hanging crops in greenhouses such as tomato, sweet pepper and cucumber. This will ensure that the crop can grow longer and that the fruits will not touch the ground, protecting them from all kinds of pests.
Usage of hooks in greenhouses could lead to:
- A reduction of time in adjusting the strings when the plant is growing;
- Less likelihood of crops being damaged for being lowered too quickly in one adjustment;
- A better quality and quantity of product due to fruits always hanging and not touching the ground;