What does climate change mean for tomato farming?
The success of growing tomatoes is always bound to weather conditions, which made last year particularly challenging for us. Despite a cold Spring, we managed to get a good harvest. However, the weather was an urgent reminder for us about the potential consequences climate change can mean for our industry and the world around us in general.
We have just started a new project with the Italian WWF to protect the biodiversity of our farmlands. Although the issues facing our habitat are huge, we believe that things can be affected by doing one change at a time.
Traditions and technology join the fight for nature
For over a century, the Mutti family has worked along the natural growth cycle of the tomato. This enables us to combine traditional methods, like mechanical insect traps, and the latest innovations, like drones and sensors, to minimise the impact growing tomatoes has on the surrounding nature.
The growth cycle begins in May when the tomatoes are planted on open fields. The quality of the soil, the amount of sun, and rain and temperature affect the speed the plants grow and define the moment when the fruit is ready to be picked. Usually, the harvest takes place between July and September.
Climate change is a threat to tomato farming. For us, the work to protect nature is responsible economically, socially, and environmentally. In the end, the problems which climate change brings will demand changes from all of us.
The summer of 2019 was the rainiest and coldest in Northern Italy since the year 1961. This caused the year’s harvest to have smaller tomatoes and overall yield than usual, which led to increased prices. Luckily the quality of the fruit remained on anaverage level.
What climate change means to tomato farming
higher frequency of extreme weather phenomena
decrease in water available in the soil
possible damage caused by new and worsening plant diseases
sea level rise between 9 and 29 cm by 2030 with problems for the conservation of emerged lands
Sun and rain, our friend and foe
A ripening tomato requires a balanced amount of water and sunshine. In the year 2019, the season began with too much rain and colder than average weather. Lucky for us the following summer months were scorchingly hot, which increased the sugar levels of the tomatoes, which survived the cold spring. For us, this meant a small but sweet harvest. In the Southern Italian growing areas, the yield was on an average level, which helped us to recuperate the losses in the North.
A silver lining in the high volume of rain was that we managed to save a lot of the water that we would have commonly needed to use for drip irrigation.
After a challenging year, we are glad to say we still managed to produce very high-quality tomato products, which were enjoyed around the world during the year.
Anyway, the changes and randomness in the weather are a dire warning of the future. For us, it means a need to work harder to do our part to find more sustainable farming and production methods to slow down global climate change. For us, the next step is a program with the Italian WWF, which concentrates on protecting and improving biodiversity on our tomato growing areas.