Role of Nitrogen in Tomato Production

Nitrogen is a key component of enzymes, vitamins, chlorophyll and other cell constituents, all of which are essential for crop growth and development. It is thus one of the most important nutrients required for high tomato crop yields.

Nitrogen and yield

Too much nitrogen can depress yields so it is important to confirm rates following local trials. The figure above shows that trials in Turkey indicated a yield descrease when nitrogen was over-applied.

Nitrogen form and yield

Over-use of ammonium N can cause problems. Trials in South Africa confirm significant yield losses of up to one third from use of ammonium in preference to nitrate.

Nitrogen form and BER

In the same trials, where ammonium-N was the main N-source, ammonium was preferentially taken-up compared to potassium, calcium and magnesium, reducing levels of these important nutrients in the crop which will reduce tomato qualities such as taste. As a result of reduced uptake of calcium, the risk of BER increases.

Nitrogen form, moisture stress and BER

When ammonium is used after fruit set and when crops are under moisture stress, BER incidence is even greater, as shown in studies in US.

Nitrogen form and root disease

In Switzerland, studies about tomato plant's susceptibility to fusarium crown and root rot found that nitrate inhibits disease development and decreases the effects of fusaric acid – a toxin released by the pathogen.

Nitrogen form and crop marketability

Crop quality and shelflife also suffer as a result of using excessive ammonium forms of nitrogen, as trial in West Indies shows. Fruit is firmer and more marketable where nitrate forms (calcium nitrate, potassium nitrate) are used.

General guidelines for Nitrogen application

Crops remove around 4.8 – 5.3lb for every ton of fruit produced. High rates of 223lb/ac or above are needed for average 44.6t/ac field crops. However, too much nitrogen can depress yields so it is important to confirm rates following local trials. Nitrogen form is particularly important in the tomato crop and it is critical to maintain a good balance between ammonium and nitrate forms to maintain fast growth and crop productivity.

Nitrogen at tomato growth stages
Establishment Promotes strong early growth
Vegetative growth Ensures continued growth
Flowering - fruit set Maintains plant growth and maximize flower numbers
Fruit ripening - maturity In reduced amounts to maintain fruit fill

Role of nutrients

Read about the role of other nutrients in tomato production:

Nitrogen

Phosphorus

Potassium

Calcium

Magnesium

Sulfur

Boron

Copper

Iron

Manganese

Molybdenum

Zinc

Follow @YSpecialtyCrops on Twitter
sebastian korob
Sebastian Korob
Crop Manager, Vegetable/Berries