by Glen Arnold, Putnam County
Commercial tomato harvest started about three weeks ago in northwest Ohio. Farmers grow several thousand acres of commercial tomatoes that are mostly machine harvested. Putnam County is the largest tomato producing county in Ohio.
Dry weather in late June and July, combined with the very late planting season will limit the yields of the early varieties harvested in mid-August. Later varieties likely benefitted from the late July and August rains and should yield better.
Tomato producers usually need over 20 tons of tomatoes per acre to pay their crop input expenses. On good years, some fields can yield 30 to 40 tons of tomatoes per acre. Exceptional growing seasons can see even higher yields.
Although the cool weather has made for pleasant evenings of watching soccer games and sleeping with the windows open, the cool weather is delaying the ripening of the tomato crop. When tomatoes fields are deemed mature enough they are sprayed with a ripening agent to ripen all the tomatoes at the same time so they can be machine harvested.
Tomato farmers are watching the weather forecast for warmer temperatures later this week in hopes of providing a boost to the harvest season. High daytime temperatures will help ripen the crop and allow farmers to more quickly move forward with harvest. Harvest will continue through the first hard frost in October.