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Too hot for hydroponic tomatoes

Kim Honan, Thursday October 10, 2013 - 15:56 EDT
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Hydroponic crop growing in tunnel at Manning Valley Tomatoes outside Taree. - ABC

A vegetable producer is considering pulling out her best seller.

Deborah Creighton grows tomatoes in hydroponic tunnels on her farm outside Taree in northern NSW.

But the high temperatures over the last few months have damaged the fruit.

"This crop should go another couple of months, but they're just really struggling and I'm tempted to pull them out and start again," she said.

"I grow them all year round, but have more trouble in summer because they get heat stressed."

When the Manning Valley region experiences 32-degree days, Deborah says the tunnels can heat up to around 43 degrees.

"It's too hot, they lose their flower, they're heat stressed, and the fruit just wants to ripen up the whole plant," she said.

"Instead of growing slowly and ripening up down the bottom of the vine, they'll just ripen up the whole way up and you don't get any new fruit come on."

There are four tunnels at Manning Valley Tomatoes with 2,500 tomato vines in total.

"With my 2,500 I try to get a 1,000 kilos a month, so that's in a good season," she said.

"It'd be really nice to get about five or six kilos off a plant in a season, but I'm lucky if I do two or three."

The tomatoes are a short-term variety called Petula.

"I grow them because of the flavour, because they're so sweet, they've got a good shelf life and the customers love them," she said.

"I have tried a longer-term variety, but I just find that the quality of the fruit is not as nice, so I just stick do these ones."

All of the tomatoes grown are sold, along with other seasonal vegetables, at the farm gate shop by using an honesty box system.

Deborah says that it works 90 per cent of the time.

"I've got some lovely customers who are really honest and I have lots of little IOUs and 'I'm in credit this week, Deb'," she said.


© ABC 2013

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