[Market-farming] Tomato Research

Bill Shoemaker wshoemak at illinois.edu
Thu Jun 11 13:58:46 EDT 2009

>What is the best plant spacing for maximum production in pounds of  
>tomatoes? I have been tending toward close spacing because of my  
>limited urban space but if fewer plants will give me the same yield  
>then i would like to know that.

There is a level of population that will optimize production for a given variety, but its a moving target. Issues like soil condition, water avaliability, soil fertility, seasonal temperature development, etc. will affect where that target is. Another thing that affects plant arrangement is equipment operation. So my view is get close, but don't worry about the bullseye. It'll be in another place next year. If you can effectively market everything you produce, you're doing better than most anyway. But to get to the point, I like to plant small, determinant tomatoes in twin rows at the edges of a plastic mulch strip, with plants 1.5' apart. If they are semi-determinant, then a signle row in mulch 1.5' apart. If they are indeterminant, then I'll use a single row with 2 plants 2' apart, then a 3' space, then 2 more plants 2' apart.

>I think it was Bill that said that tomato blight was caused by the  
>plants remaining wet for long periods of time. There is also the idea  
>that rain or watering can splash soil up on the plants and that can  
>cause disease. When i keep the ground covered with straw my plants  
>seem to last longer. What is the research/experience on these two ideas?

There is good evidence that reducing soil-splashing during rain events reduces incidence of early blight. It prevents fungal inoculum form reaching the leaf tissue. But if it does, and the leaf remains wet long enough, the fungal spores germinate and begin to grow. They penetrate the cuticle and become firmly established. But organic mulches that prevent soil splashing are really helpful. You may still get it, but it probably won't be as intense as if you hadn't used the mulch.


>Marty in Kansas City
William H Shoemaker, UI-NRES
Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
St Charles Horticulture Research Center
535 Randall Road  St Charles, IL  60174
630-584-7254; FAX-584-4610

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