The wild species originated in the Andes Mountains of South America, probably mainly in Peru and Ecuador, and is thought to have been domesticated in pre-Columbian Mexico; its name is derived from the Náhuatl (Aztec) word “tomatl”. The tomato, along with corn, potatoes, chilli peppers and sweet potatoes was introduced to Europe in the early sixteenth century with the voyages of Columbus. In France and northern Europe, the tomato was initially grown as an ornamental plant and was regarded with suspicion as a food because botanists recognized it as a relative of the poisonous belladonna and deadly nightshade. Indeed, the roots and leaves of the tomato plant are poisonous and contain the neurotoxin solanine. Tomatoes were introduced to North America from Europe. The tomato was used for food in Louisiana as early as 1812, but not in the northeastern states until about 1835. It did not attain widespread popularity in the United States until the early 20th century. The plant is now grown commercially throughout the world.
The cultivated tomato, (Solanum lycopersicum), is the world’s most highly consumed vegetable due to its status as a basic ingredient in a large variety of raw, cooked, or processed foods. It belongs to the family Solanaceae, which includes several other commercially important species like potato, pepper, eggplant. This crop plant can be perennial or semi-perennial, but commercially it is considered an annual.
The growth habit of the plant varies from indeterminate to determinate. The primary root may grow several meters in length. The stem is angular and covered by hairy and glandular trichomes that confer a characteristic smell. Leaves are alternately arranged on the stem and range in shape from lobed to compound. All leaves are covered by glandular, hairy trichomes.
The tomato fruit is globular or ovoid. Botanically, the fruit is a berry, a simple fleshy fruit that encloses seeds in the pulp.
Tomatoes undergo four main stages of growth during their life:
Tomato is a perennial herbaceous plant, but it is often grown as an annual crop even if biennial and perennial forms exist. Tomato is cultivated in tropical and temperate climates in open field or under greenhouse in temperate climate. Greenhouses are often used for large-scale production. In warm climate with the right light intensity for growth, around 45 days are necessary from germination to anthesis and 90-100 days to reach beginning of fruit ripeness. The end use of the crop, whether for the processing market or fresh market, will determine the cultivars sown, the time of harvest and harvest processes, which can be manual or mechanical. Tomato is a rapidly growing crop with a growing period of 90 to 150 days. It is a daylength neutral plant. Optimum mean daily temperature for growth is 18 (64.4 °F) to 25°C (77 °F) with night temperatures between 10 (50 °F) and 20°C (68 °F). Larger differences between day and night temperatures, however, adversely affect yield. The crop is very sensitive to frost. Temperatures above 25°C (77 °F), when accompanied by high humidity and strong wind, result in reduced yield. Night temperatures above 2O°C (68 °F) accompanied by high humidity and low sunshine lead to excessive vegetative growth and poor fruit production. Tomato can be grown on a wide range of soils but a well-drained, prefer deep, well-drained sandy loams.
Tomato cultivation requests adequate fertilization: it is very important to avoid excesses or deficiencies of nutrients. This crop requires high amounts of potassium and calcium. The organic fertilization is very useful because bringing nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, Magnesium, Calcium, trace elements, organic matter, it favors the good development and the health of the plants. It also helps to improve poor and tired soils and to avoid excess of salinity in the soil, which is the main problem with chemical fertilizers. Tomato absorbs large quantity of Potassium which influences the final quality of fruits. The Phosphorous favors roots growth in the early stages, and vegetative plant growth in addition to play an important role in fruit development. It is requested at the very first stage of the tomato development and more specifically in an organic form to avoid any insolubility issues. Nitrogen is required to obtain both good quantitative and qualitative results. It is recommended to bring nitrogen under organic form before transplanting and a further application at later stage. Calcium is useful to improve the firmness and the shelf life of tomatoes and to prevent apical rot. Boron applications ensure good fruit set, higher number of fruits and better fruit weight. Boron also has a positive effect on fruit quality and shelf life.
The crop also benefits from the application of products with a biostimulant action, based on beneficial microorganisms and vegetable protein hydrolysates. These products are able root development in the early stages, to improve the availability of nutrients in the soil, to increase the yield from a quantitative and qualitative standpoint and to reduce the negative impact of climatic stresses. The application of biostimulants increases the environmental and economic sustainability of the production system.