Tomato drip irrigation

Tomatoes are one of the most widely grown crops in the world, with world volumes of around 34.8 million tonnes in 2018.  Italy, together with China and the US, represents 56% of the total annual production. In 2019 there was a +6.4% growth in the worldwide production as the demand continues to grow.

Characteristics and needs of tomato

Root architecture: roots are quite deep and can vary from 0.5 to 1.5 m in depth, it can be taproot or fibrous depending on how the plant grows. The root will be taproot if is grown from a seed, while it will be fibrous if is grown from cuttings.

Leaf: The tomato plant has large and compound leaves. A compound leaf is made up of leaflets which are distributed along the leaf rachis. Leaves have an epidermis that contains stomata, where all the gaseous exchanges are made.

Stem: indeterminate in height if the plant continues to grow. Determined if the Apical bud turns into an inflorescence and the plant takes on a bushy shape.

Flowers: 4 to 12 per inflorescence, they are yellow and bisexual – they contain both male (stamens) and female (pistil) organs.

Fruit: many-seeded berry of variable shape and size, red when fully ripe. Composition: 95-96% pulp, 2-3% seeds, 1-2% peel

Soil: tomato prefers sandy soil, rich in nutrients and organic substances and requires good drainage to avoid stagnation. Recommended pH between 6 and 7, as it prefers neutral or sub-acidic soils, but it also adapts to slightly alkaline soils as long as they are supported by adequate organic fertilisation.

Soil preparation: in clayey soils, tillage must be carried out in advance to allow the soil to acquire structure and thus be able to carry out proper refinement at the time of transplanting. In sandy soils, tilling can also be carried out in conjunction with transplanting.

Climate: Tomato prefers warm-temperate climates. Its most favourable temperature is 20/24°C while its down limit temperature is 10/12°C below which it stops its physiological activities until they die below 2/3°C.

irrigazione a goccia pomodori

Production category: Processing tomatoes

This kind of tomato is produced for further processing to obtain peeled tomatoes, concentrates, sauces and juices, flours, etc. Generally, varieties with fixed growth are used i.e., the variety where apical buds are transformed into inflorescences and the plant stops growing in height. The most widely used variety, especially for the production of peeled tomatoes, is the “San Marzano”. The San Marzano tomato of the Agro Sarnese-Nocerino territory, is commonly used for the production of peeled tomatoes and produced exclusively in the areas of Salerno, Naples and Avellino; it is protected at European level as a quality product.

Production category: Table tomato

Table tomatoes are produced to be commercialised without undergoing any transformation process. Numerous varieties selected for this type of consumption allow plantation in different seasons, thus ensuring a year-round production.

  • Round, globe-shaped, uniform fruits
  • Consistent flesh
  • Color: from green to red
  • Few seeds
  • Resistance to diseases and manipulation

Even for this variety, Italy is recognised at European level, namely Pachino. This type can take four different forms: round and smooth, clustered, ribbed and cherry.

How to achieve the maximum productivity with drip irrigation system

In order to reach its full potential in the production process, tomatoes require a high-water supply, especially in the phase immediately after transplant. It is therefore important to choose a correct irrigation technique.

Drip irrigation, compared to other irrigation methods, is very efficient as it locates the water directly near the root system and avoids waste caused by wind or evapotranspiration. The low rainfall of drip irrigation allows a careful control of the depth of watering, avoids deep leakage of nutrients, avoids soil compaction due to the action of sprinkling water and saves such a precious resource as water, avoiding waterlogging. Only with the drip irrigation method, it is possible to achieve irrigation coefficients of 90-95%, which indicate the ratio between the irrigation water delivered to the plant and the water supplied. Another feature of drip irrigation is that it works at lower pressures than other irrigation methods, allowing high savings in energy and money.

Download our guide on tomato drip irrigation

Thanks to precision irrigation you can improve crops’ productivity and, at the meantime, sensitively reduce the use of water resources. Download our guide to find out all the benefits of drip irrigation. You will find an example of drip irrigation system designed by our agronomists.

Drip irrigation benefits: reducing the risk of diseases

The controlled, direct irrigation on the soil with the drip irrigation system prevents the entire plant from wetting, thus avoiding an increase in humidity in the leaf apparatus and in the fruits.

This is very important, as an increase in leaf moisture on the tomato plant during the time of year when temperatures are high could lead to important fungal, bacterial and viral diseases. The most common diseases found in tomatoes are:

  • Fungal diseases: downy mildew, altenaria, Cladosporium, grey mould
  • Bacterial diseases: maculation, cancer, clavibacter
  • Physiological alterations: apical rot, or caused by insect attacks (red spider, tineoid moth ecc.)

Drip irrigation benefits: sustainability and fertigation

Water is a limited resource so it is important to evaluate the environmental impact of what we use.

Several studies have shown how efficient drip irrigation is in terms of water saving. The above-mentioned experiment by the Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University in Bangladesh, found that with proper management of the drip system, there could be an 80% water saving.

Drip irrigation is a sustainable irrigation technique used even in very dry areas of our planet. Areas where it is essential to use as little water as possible. The drip irrigation technique allows the farmer, due to high irrigation efficiency, significant water savings and due to low operating pressure also high energy savings. This solution has been proven to have a 38% higher efficiency compared to conventional irrigation techniques. Drip irrigation is one of the few irrigation techniques that allows the correct use of fertigation (irrigation water and fertilisers). Fertigation is an agricultural practice now widely used and known thanks to which it is possible not only to save water, but also fertiliser units thus reducing the salt load in the soil under cultivation and increasing productivity.

Drip irrigation benefits: brix increase

Drip irrigation allows nutrients to be concentrated directly in the root structure, thus reducing unnecessary waste and costs. The possibility of intervening with both radical and nutritive products at any time allows a greater control of BRIX degrees, obtaining fruits with higher sugar content and therefore higher quality.

The study “Periurban Vegetable Production Project (PUVeP)” conducted by Xavier University College of Agriculture in the Philippines, on tomato cultivation highlighted the benefits of drip irrigation over lateral infiltration. Ten small farms in different parts of the Philippines were analysed; fertilisation by drip irrigation and lateral infiltration were applied, in divided plots of land.


In 9 out of 10 farms, it was observed how much the fertigation technique using drip irrigation is more productive. Production yield is 56.8 t/ha with drip fertigation compared to 33.5 t/ha with lateral infiltration. All the farmers who participated in this study stated that it was much more easier to apply fertilisers via drip irrigation, thus eliminating the problem of soil erosion completely.

Download our guide on tomato drip irrigation

Thanks to precision irrigation you can improve crops’ productivity and, at the meantime, sensitively reduce the use of water resources. Download our guide to find out all the benefits of drip irrigation. You will find an example of drip irrigation system designed by our agronomists.

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