Growing Tomato
Crop Nutrition Advice

Everything you need to know about tomato fertilization, best practice, suitable products, field trials and more.

Advice for growing Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum)

Crop Description

Interesting facts about tomatoes

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) belongs to the Solanaceae family and is the second most important vegetable crop next to potato. Present world production (2022) is about 186 million tons fresh fruit from 5 million ha. (FAOSTAT, 2022). China accounts for 1/3 of global production (68 million mt), followed by India and the U.S. (20 and 10 million mt, respectively).

Tomato is a rapidly growing crop with a growing period of 90 to 150 days. It is a daylength neutral plant, and hence can be grown in many regions. Optimum mean daily temperature for growth is 21 to 24ºC with night temperatures between 10 and 20ºC. Dry climates are preferred for tomato production. Tomato is classified as a climacteric fruit, and dramatic metabolic changes occur during its fruit development.

Tomato can be grown on a wide range of soils but a well-drained, light loam soil with pH of 5 to 7 is preferred. Waterlogging increases the incidence of diseases such as bacterial wilt. Tomato is also grown in greenhouse over a wide range of soil-less cultures.

The crop is relatively not sensitive to soil salinity, and yield will be reduced only at high levels of EC. Yield decrease is 0% at ECe 2.5 dS/cm, 10% at 3.5, 25% at 5.0, 50% at 7.6 and 100% at ECe > 12.5 dS/m. The most sensitive period to salinity is during germination and early plant development, and necessary leaching of salts is therefore frequently practised during pre-irrigation or by over-watering during the initial irrigation application. Tomato is ‘chloride neutral’ but prefer sulphate as the accompanying onion for potassium.

Tomatoes play a significant role in human nutrition due to their diverse health benefits and nutrient content. The fruit is a good source of vitamin C and A, potassium, lycopene, and beta carotene.

Crop Uses

What are the most common uses of tomatoes?

Of the 190 million mt tomato crop annually produced, approx. 50% are being processed to various sauces, pastes, canned tomatoes, juice, and ketchup. Different qualities required for the processing industry imply the use of different varieties and agronomic practices. Brix (dissolved solids in liquid) level is a crucial factor that impacts the quality and taste of tomato-based products.

Nutrients Role

What are the most important nutrients for tomatoes?

Nitrogen (N) plays a crucial role in tomato production, contributing significantly to crop growth and development. It is a key component of enzymes, vitamins, chlorophyll, and other cell constituents. Adequate nitrogen levels in the plant are necessary for high tomato crop yields. Tomato crop requires an optimal balance between ammonium and nitrate forms. Nitrogen affects all crop’s growth stages: it promotes strong early growth, ensures continued growth, supports flower development and maximizes flower numbers and provides to maintain fruit fill.

Phosphorus (P) is a vital nutrient for tomato production, influencing both yield and quality. Phosphorus is a component of nucleic acids (DNA and RNA), and it plays a direct role in energy transfer within the plant. These processes impact overall yield and crop quality. Phosphorus contributes to the quality of the fruit by increasing Total Soluble Solids (TSS), or Brix.

Potassium (K) has a major effect on tomato’s yield and quality, due to its role in maintaining ionic balance and water status in the plant. It ensures proper water movement, which is essential for nutrient uptake and overall plant health. Potassium is also involved in the production and transport of sugars, in energy metabolism and it contributes to the growth and development of fruits. Potassium plays a role in protein synthesis, enzyme activation and pigment synthesis, notably lycopene. Potassium influences fruit ripening and determines the level of sugars in the fruit. An inadequate supply of potassium may result in uneven ripening and affect fruit quality and may lead to blotchy ripening and color defects (such as internal white tissues or yellow shoulder). Higher potassium levels may increase the acidity of tomato juice.

Magnesium (Mg) affects various critical physiological and biochemical processes in higher plants, and its deficiency impedes plant growth and development. Magnesium is essential for chlorophyll synthesis and participates in energy transfer processes in the plant. It ensures uniform ripening of well-formed tomato fruit and affects fruit shape. Magnesium is necessary for protein synthesis and enzyme activation. During crop’s growth, magnesium improves flowering and crop production, and is essential for high-quality fruit production.

Calcium (Ca) plays a pivotal role in the nutrition of tomato plants, influencing various aspects of growth, fruit quality, and overall productivity. Calcium is a key component of cells, contributing to the structure of cell walls and stabilizing cell membranes. It enhances pollen germination and involved in regulation of various enzyme systems. Calcium has a specific influence on tomato fruit quality, especially in preventing Blossom End Rot (BER). Adequate calcium supplies improve fruit firmness.

Nutrient interactions in higher plants are of high importance. For example, the antagonistic
effect of K on Mg is stronger than that of Mg on K in root absorption and transport within plants, indicating, that the balanced use of K and Mg fertilizers is necessary for sustaining high plant-available Mg and alleviating K-induced Mg deficiency, especially in plant species with high K demand, e.g. tomatoes, or in soils rich in potassium (Xie et al., 2021). Excess application of ammonium (NH4) has a negative impact on plant development and results in calcium deficiency (Bonomelli et al., 2021).

Nutrient requirements and fertilization

Daily nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) consumption rate of tomato under drip fertigation as a function of time after emergence or planting

Days after emergence or plantingN (kg N ha-I day-1)P (kg P ha-I day-1)K (kg K ha-I day-1)
Processing tomatoesGreenhouse tomatoesFresh tomatoesProcessing tomatoesGreenhouse tomatoesFresh tomatoesProcessing tomatoesGreenhouse tomatoesFresh tomatoes
Total (kg ha-1)393450250596524520710370

Adapted from IPI (IPI Crop Bulletin 13) (ipi_bulletin_13_fertilizing_for_high_yield_and_quality_vegetables.pdf (


Typical nutrient removal rates of tomato

Growth environmentNP2O5K2OMgOCaO
kg/mt yield
Open field3.
Presented under license from AGMATIX data repository.

Deficiency and toxicity symptoms

NutrientDeficiency symptoms in tomato
Nitrogen (N)General chlorosis of the older leaves. Slower growth and smaller plants. Less flowers and reduced yield.
Phosphoros (P)Plants develop very slowly, are stunted even at maturity. Brighter colour than normal, lower leaf surface is grey-green. Leaflets roll upwards under severe deficiency; It occurs on calcareous and heavy soils, where P can be fixed.
Potassium (K)Deficiency in potassium slows down plant growth; new leaves become tapered, and older ones exhibit yellowing at the edges, eventually turning brownish and necrotic. This yellowing typically progresses from the edges towards the center of the leaves. Occasionally, bright orange areas may appear. In many cases, a lack of fruit firmness is also attributable to potassium deficiency
Magnesium (Mg)Symptoms appear first on older leaves, general chlorosis while veins remain green. In severe cases, scorched appearance due to interveinal necrosis. It may occur on sandy soils, and when too high K or Ca rates are applied.
Magnesium (Mg)Symptoms appear first on older leaves, general chlorosis while veins remain green. In severe cases, scorched appearance due to interveinal necrosis. It may occur on sandy soils, and when too high K or Ca rates are applied.
Calcium (Ca)Ca deficiency induces Blossom-end rot (BER, collapsing of the distal part of the fruit). Deficiencies are severe in soils with pH below 5, salinity, heat and cold weather.
Sulphur (S)Symptoms are similar to N deficiency, but the chlorosis is uniform and general through out the entire plant, including younger leaves. Typical reddish colour develops on leaves’ petioles and veins.
Iron (Fe)The iron-deficient leaves show strong chlorosis at the base of the leaves with some green netting. The most common symptom for iron deficiency starts out as an interveinal chlorosis of the youngest leaves, evolves into an overall chlorosis, and ends as a totally bleached leaf. Because iron has a low mobility, iron deficiency symptoms appear first on the youngest leaves. Iron deficiency is strongly associated with calcareous soils, anaerobic conditions, and it is often induced by an excess of heavy metals.
Manganese (Mn)At the earlier stages, light chlorosis appears on the young leaves. At a more severe cases, mature leaves show netted veins. Then leaves develop brown-grey necrosis along the veins. It occurs on high-pH and calcareous soils, or excessively limed soils.
Zinc (Zn)It causes stunting of plants and upwards rolling of young leaves, grey-brown to bronze areas may develop on the leaves. It appears on alkaline soils, or when high P is applied.
Copper (Cu)Curled leaves, with petioles bent downward. May be expressed as a light overall chlorosis along with permanent loss of turgor in the young leaves, recently matured leaves show netted, green veining with areas bleaching to a whitish grey.
Boron (B)Symptoms generally appear firstly on young leaves, as lighter colour. Severe deficiency shows on older leaves as interveinal chlorosis, which develops to deep yellow-orange hue. Brittle leaves that may show rolled-up edges, corky stem-end of the fruit in tomatoes.
Molybdenum (Mo)An early symptom for molybdenum deficiency is an overall chlorosis, very similar to nitrogen deficiency, but without the reddish coloration on the undersides of the leaves. An upward cupping of the leaves and mottled spots, developing into large interveinal chlorotic areas under severe deficiency.
Chloride (Cl)Abnormally shaped leaves, with distinct interveinal chlorosis. Chlorosis occurs on smooth flat depressions in the interveinal area of the leaf blade. In more advanced cases there appears a characteristic bronzing on the upper side of mature leaves. It can be found in highly leached inland areas.

Source: adapted from IPI (IPI Crop Bulletin 13); (ipi_bulletin_13_fertilizing_for_high_yield_and_quality_vegetables.pdf ( and

NutrientToxicity symptoms in vegetables
ManganeseMay occur as part of "soil acidity complex" if pH falls below 5.0. Brassica crops show inward rolling of leaf edges, interveinal chlorosis, and necrotic spotting. Lettuce older leaf edges become golden yellow. Mn concentrations above 500 mg kg-I in the affected leaf margins would indicate the problem.
AluminiumWhereas brassicas suffer Mn toxicity on acid soils, certain crops, notably sugar beet and celery are resistant to it, but instead suffer from aluminium toxicity to which brassicas are tolerant. Symptoms are mainly on the roots - thickening, clubbing, and blackening, although celery shows petiole collapse and necrosis of the growing point.
BoronThis occurs mainly as a result of over-dosing when attempting to correct B deficiency (which is very easily done) and when irrigation water contains more than about 0.75 mg B L-1. Lettuce is rather susceptible: older leaves show pale margins.
AmmoniaWilting, interveinal and marginal necrosis (scorch) of leaves; brown roots. Tissue NH4+ concentration is diagnostic but critical value is genotype dependent. May occur in compost-grown plants following steam sterilisation, or storage of the compost.
ChlorideMay occur in saline conditions. Causes marginal leaf scorch similar to K deficiency.

Adapted from IPI (IPI Crop Bulletin 13) (ipi_bulletin_13_fertilizing_for_high_yield_and_quality_vegetables.pdf (



  1. FAO Land & Water (Tomato | Land & Water | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations | Land & Water | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (
  2. IPI Crop Bulletin 13, 1995. Nutrient and Fertilizer Management in Field Grown Vegetables.(pdf (
  3. Tomato Fruit Development and Metabolism. Quinet et al., 2019. Front. Plant Sci., 29 November. Frontiers | Tomato Fruit Development and Metabolism (
  4. Synergistic and antagonistic interactions between potassium and Magnesium in higher plants. Xie et al., 2021.
  5. Ammonium excess leads to Ca restrictions, morphological changes, and nutritional imbalances in tomato plants, which can be monitored by the N/Ca Ratio. Bonomelli et al., 2021. Agronomy, 11, 1437.

Selected articles and guides

  1. Polyhalite – A Multi-Nutrient Fertilizer Preventing Ca and Mg Deficiencies in Greenhouse Tomatoes under Desalinized Irrigation Water. Sacks., et al, December 2017. e-ifc 51. Polyhalite – A Multi-Nutrient Fertilizer Preventing Ca and Mg Deficiencies in Greenhouse Tomatoes under Desalinized Irrigation Water (
  2. On Farm Evaluation of Polyhalite – A Promising Fertilizer for Nutrient Management in Greenhouse Tomatoes. Sacks, et al, November 2019. PPT at On Farm Evaluation of Polyhalite – A Promising Fertilizer for Nutrient Management in Greenhouse Tomatoes (
  3. Increases in Yield and Vitamin C Levels of Tomato Grown on K2HPO4-enriched Zeolite in an Inert-Sand Substrate. Bernardi, et al., March 2013. e-ifc 33. Increases in Yield and Vitamin C Levels of Tomato Grown on K2HPO4-enriched Zeolite in an Inert-Sand Substrate (
  4. Yield and fruit quality of tomato as affected by rates and ratios of K and Ca in water culture. IPI International Symposium on Fertigation; Optimizing the utilization of water and nutrients; Beijing, September 20-24, 2005. Yield and fruit quality of tomato as affected by rates and ratios of K and Ca.pdf (
  5. Success using Polysulphate Fertilizer on Tomato Crop. Increasing Tomato Crop Profit with Polysulphate | ICL (

Product type

Product typeField grown tomatoesGreenhouse tomatoes
Very much usedModerately usedNot relevantVery much usedModerately usedNot relevant
Potash Based Fertilizers+
Phosphate Based Fertilizers+
Complex & Blended Granular Fertilizers+
Polysulphate Based Fertilizers++
Water Soluble Fertilizers (WSF)++
Liquid Fertilizers++
Controlled Release Fertilizers (CRF)++
Organic Fertilizers++
Micronutrients Package++
Wetting Agents++
Application method
Row application++
Planting holes++
Bulk blending++
NPK granulation++
F3 SurfActive++

Tomato Trials

Tomato with H2Flo
Florida, USA, 2014


Water conservation
Tomato with Polysulphate
Beit-Ezra, Israel , 2017


Marketable Yield Increase
Tomato with Polysulphate
Zhoukou, Henan province, China, 2016


Yield increase


Here are some frequently asked questions we received from farmers regarding growing tomatoes.

  • This will depend on the current nutrient content of your soil. Before you start fertilizing tomatoes, it is best to test your soil tested. E.g., if your soil is correctly balanced or high in N, you should use a fertilizer that is slightly lower in N and higher in P, if you are slightly lacking in N, then use a balanced fertilizer.

    ICl Growing Solutions make a specific fertilization program for each situation, and ICL Growing Solutions Agronomist engineers work every day to be close to the real needs of farmers.

  • Crop phenological stage

    Type of applicationEstablishment – VegetativeVegetative/fruit settingFruit development – harvest
    Soil application300-500 kg/ha of Polysulphate
    Fertigation25-50 kg/ha of PeKacid50-75 kg/ha of PeKacid50-75 kg/ha of PeKacid
    15-35 kg/ha Agrolution pHLow 9-45-15+ME75-100 kg/ha of Agrolution pHLow 20-20-20+ME100-150 kg/ha of Agrolution pHLow 10-10-40+ME
    25-50 kg/ha of Nova Mag-N50-75 kg/ha of Nova Mag-N100-150 kg/ha of Nova Mag-N
    35-50 kg/ha of Nova Calcium150-200 kg/ha of Nova Calcium150-200 kg/ha of Nova Calcium
    50-100 kg/ha of Nova Ferti-K50-100 kg/ha of Nova Ferti-K
    Foliar application2-4 kg/ha of NutriVant Starter2-4 kg/ha of NutriVant PeaK2-4 kg/ha of NutriVant Booster

  • Maintain steady levels of moisture to your plants. Use a balanced fertilizer. Avoid working too close to the roots of the tomato plant. Check your soil pH before planting. Add calcium to your soil or with foliar application. Polysulphate is an efficient solution to provide the plant with the calcium it needs.

  • The nutritional requirements of a tomato change with the season and stages of growth. In order to obtain an optimal crop, the composition of the fertilizer and its amount must be adjusted to the growing stage. One solution we can do is apply a base fertilization with Agromaster with polysulphate before sowing and then adjust it throughout the cycle with soluble fertilizers.

  • You will need to apply 50 * 7.5 = 375 kg/ha of potassium (K2O) using the appropriate fertilizer (MOP, SOP and other K sources).

  • Yes, sulfur is an essential nutrient for potato as it is required to optimize the high demand for nitrogen. It also improves winter hardiness and reduces disease infection.

  • While calcium is an important nutrient for potato crop, supporting cell wall formation and skin quality, it’s deficiency in soils is less common as compared to the macro elements.

  • Yes, adding organic matter to soils, especially to light textured soils typical for potato crop, improves soil health, water capacity and nutrient supply.

Do you have more questions?