Rice Straw: An Alternative Storage Medium for MMSU tomatoes

img_6240_400Tomato (Solanumlycopersicum)is one of the most important and most cultivated vegetables worldwide. With the many uses and nutritional value of tomato, it becomes an indispensable ingredient in man’s diet. Tomato fruit can be eaten raw or cooked and is used in many dishes. The fruit may also be processed in juice, soup, ketchup, puree, paste or powder. In the Philippines, Ilocos Norte is one of the major producers of tomato (11.7%), next to Bukidnon and Pangasinan (BAS, 2010).

Most of the farmers plant tomatoes at the same time during the dry season from November to January, hence the largest volume of fruits flock at the local markets from February to March making the price very low. Tomato storage is necessary during this time to regulate the supply in the market and to wait for a better price.

In a research conducted by the researchers from the Mariano Marcos State University, City of Batac, Ilocos Norte headed by Prof. Maura Luisa S. Gabriel, et.al they found out that the best and alternative way to store tomatoes is the use of rice straw.

Rice straw is the vegetative part of the rice plant cut at grain harvest or after. It may be burned and left on the field before the next ploughing, ploughed down as soil improver or used as a feed for livestock (Kadam et al., 2000)

The guidelines and requirements in storing tomatoes must be Ilocos Red tomato variety (Stop irrigating the tomato plants 10 to 14 days before harvesting to prevent them from rotting easily). Harvest only green mature fruits preferably in the morning. Select fruits free from insect damage and bruises; pack 8 to 10 kg of tomatoes in paper box or plastic sack incorporated with newly harvested and dried rice straw, 2-3cm thick, placed in between layers of tomatoes. Store packed tomatoes in an open area, elevated using bamboo rack or papag to provide good ventilation. Maximum storage length is 2 months.

Based on the research being conducted, it is profitable to store tomatoes until 67 days. Besides, the storage medium is easy to follow so it is adoptable by farmers. In the past, many have tried storing tomatoes but only few were successful.

Recent findings done at Mariano Marcos State University revealed that the use of rice straw as storage medium for tomato is very effective to prolong its shelf life. Rice straw is available and abundant in the locality. Specially, here in Ilocos Norte, planting rice is the main agricultural crops by farmers.

This research study bagged 3rd Placer under Research Category during the 26th Regional Symposium on R and D Highlights held on November 26-28, 2014.