Fruit Farming in South Africa

Scientific name: Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. Common Names: Tomato, Tamati, Tamatiso, uTamatisi Table tomatoes are one of the most cultivated crops in the world and there are several hundred varieties of tomato available.

©Louise Brodie

The fruit is rich in lycopene and Vitamin C. Tomatoes are used in various ways. Ripe tomatoes are consumed fresh and are also be fried or used in cooking. They are also sundried or processed into tomato sauce, puree, powder and soup or as canned tomatoes, chutney and jam.

Plant Description

The tomato is a perennial but grown as an annual plant grown for its fruits. It is a branching herbaceous plant with hairy, weak trailing stems.

The leaves are hairy and vary in size. The plant bears yellow flowers in clusters. The fruits are round to lobed and they vary in size and colour, ranging from red to pink or yellow when ripe. The plant produces flat, slightly curved and hairy light brown seeds.

Soil Requirements and Preparation

Ideally soils should be well drained to at least 1.2 m although a depth of 600mm is also acceptable. Loosen the soil thoroughly by either ploughing or using a fork, hand hoe or spade. Loosen the soil for good root aeration, root penetration and drainage.

Remove stones and break hard layers to ensure good root penetration. Tomatoes are fairly well adapted to soil texture and soils with a 15% to 35% clay content are ideal and the best results are obtained in deep, well-drained loam soils.

This crop is moderately tolerant to soil acidity and the optimum pH is 5.0 to 7.0. For ideal productions the soil should be rich in organic matter and free of root-knot nematodes.


The wide variation in climate in South Africa allows the planting and production of fresh tomatoes in open fields in various parts of the country all year although tomatoes are generally a warm season crop. They are very sensitive to frost and the ideal temperatures for growth are 20°c to 25°c, with monthly mean temperatures of between 18°c and 27°c.

If temperatures exceed 35 and drop below 12 this can have a negative effect on fruit set and quality. Hot, dry winds cause excessive flower drop while continuous moist, rainy weather conditions result in the occurrence and spread of leaf diseases. It is therefore recommended that tomatoes be grown in dry areas under irrigation.


Fresh market Tomatoes: Floradade, Karino, Rodade, Star 9001, Star 9003, Zeal, Fortress Jam and preserving tomatoes: HTX 14, Legato, Roma, Rossol, Star 9056F, Sun 6216 Cherry Tomatoes: Bamby, Josephine, Little Wonder, Songold, Flavorita, JasperBy Louise Brodie