El cultivo del tomate

El tomate de ensalada, Lycopersicon esculentum Mill, es una planta dicotiledónea, herbácea y perenne que pertenece a la familia botánica Solanaceae. En esta familia también se encuentra: el pimiento, el ají dulce, la berenjena, la papa, el tomatillo, el tabaco y la petunia.

El tomate en Puerto Rico se puede cultivar durante todo el año. En el área sur, específicamente en Santa Isabel, se siembra de septiembre a marzo para poder exportar gran parte del producto a los Estados Unidos aprovechando que en el invierno no se produce allá.

Este alimento se utiliza en la producción de sopa, jugo, salsa, ‘ketchup’, puré, pasta y polvo de tomate. Los tomates verdes se utilizan para encurtidos y conservas. De las semillas del tomate, recuperadas en las plantas de elaboración, se puede extraer un aceite comestible no saturado.

Se considera que las hojas, flores y frutas del tomate poseen propiedades medicinales. Ciertas personas pueden ser sensitivas a la ingestión de la fruta del tomate por su pH ácido y también debido a la presencia de saponina, solanina e histamina.

Aunque la fruta es alrededor de 90 a 94% agua, se considera una buena fuente de vitamina A y vitamina C, supliendo 900 a 1,133 IU y 17.6 a 23 mg, respectivamente, por cada 100 gramos de fruta Madura.

Uno de los pigmentos carotenoides que contiene la fruta madura del tomate es el licopeno (lycopene), un pigmento rojo reconocido como un antioxidante que puede ser beneficioso para la salud de los consumidores.

La altura que alcanza la planta de tomate varía en diferentes cultivares, desde menos de 20 hasta 80 pulgadas o más. El tallo principal usualmente puede alcanzar una altura de uno a dos pies, dependiendo del cultivo. Tanto el tallo principal como los tallos secundarios se desarrollan bastante sólidos y anchos. El porte puede ser inicialmente erecto o rastrero, desarrollándose posteriormente a más o menos postrado.

Entre los cultivares de tomate se observan diferencias en cuanto a las características del crecimiento de la planta.

El crecimiento varía desde uno de tipo indeterminado o ilimitado (donde se mantiene la dominancia de una yema vegetativa en el ápice de las ramas) hasta uno altamente determinado o compacto (donde eventualmente en el ápice de las ramas se emite una inflorescencia terminal).

La forma de las hojas, pinnada compuesta, es muy variable y depende en gran parte de las condiciones ambientales. Su lámina, de seis a 12 pulgadas de largo, está dividida en dos a 12 pares de segmentos o folíolos de diferentes tamaños. Las hojas son dentadas, y frecuentemente rizadas pero también pueden ser lisas.

El tomate se puede cultivar en distintos tipos de suelo, siempre que los mismos tengan buen desagüe y fertilidad.

La planta de tomate tiene un crecimiento rápido y un largo período de producción, por lo cual el requisito nutricional de nitrógeno (N), fósforo (P) y potasio (K) es alto.

Es recomendable analizar el suelo como paso inicial del programa de producción de tomate. El análisis del suelo no necesariamente indica la cantidad absoluta de nutrimentos accesibles a la planta, sino que representa un índice del grado de disponibilidad del nutrimento. Con esa información podemos determinar la cantidad de fertilizante que se debe aplicar para suplementar las reservas del suelo y propiciar un crecimiento, desarrollo y una producción adecuada de la planta de tomate. Si desea más información puedes escribir a: jose.zayas5@upr.edu

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