Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for tomato production will vary by a grower’s preferred production method and operation size. The following discussion shares basic machinery and equipment needs for tomato production. Depending on a grower’s operation size, expertise and previous machinery investments, the grower must determine whether to purchase and operate the equipment, engage a custom service provider or possibly rent and operate the necessary equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

Growing tomatoes relies heavily on hand labor. As a Missouri vegetable crop that requires relatively high labor commitments, tomatoes need hand labor during several production stages: staking and trellising, pruning, tying, fertilizing, cultivating, irrigating and harvesting. However, some production operations require machinery and equipment.

With respect to land preparation, the selected operations must address soil compaction and hard pans because tomatoes have deep root systems. Possible equipment used to prepare tomato planting areas include a mower, disk, moldboard plow, subsoiler, rotary tiller and leveling board. The mowing and disking can help to manage soil surface residues. Rather than disking after using the moldboard plow, disking should usually occur six weeks to eight weeks before planting. The moldboard plow serves as a tool to turn the soil and encourage extensive root system development. Subsoiling may be necessary if compaction still exists after using the moldboard plow; it also supports water infiltration. Final machinery operations include the rotary tiller and leveling board. Producers can create raised beds for tomato growing areas. A bed shaper may help to form raised beds.

Raised beds should have a plastic mulch covering. Laying plastic mulch involves special equipment, and disposing of the mulch also adds costs. The type of plastic may depend on the planting season. Black plastic is inexpensive, but if planting tomatoes late for fall production, then white plastic is preferred because it doesn’t trigger soil temperature increases to the same extent.

In tomato production, conventional tillage systems tend to be most popular. In limited circumstances, reduced tillage has had application when commercially growing tomatoes. When using reduced tillage, properly managing weeds and diseases can create problems. Additionally, reduced tillage makes applying phosphates, potash and lime more challenging.

To apply fertilizer, producers may use broadcast or banded applications. Typically, banded applications have more effectiveness. As another option, producers could choose a modified broadcast approach. In it, producers broadcast products specifically in the bed area. A rotary tiller can incorporate fertilizers applied.

If producers grow their own transplants, then they’ll need the necessary greenhouse equipment to support transplant seeding and growth. For example, when planting tomato seeds into greenhouse growing containers, producers can choose from using vacuum seeding or seeding by hand. Because tomato growers use transplants, they’ll need to access to equipment that will help with the transplanting. An implement with a water wheel can make holes in the plastic mulch. Then, workers can insert transplants into the punched holes. When using black plastic mulch, keep plants and the plastic from touching. If the plastic absorbs solar heat and touches the plants, then the plants could experience damage or die. A transplanter could also set tomato plants.

During the growing period, tomatoes need reliable moisture availability. Many producers use drip irrigation systems. Such systems pair especially well with plastic mulch. The irrigation system could also be used to apply fertilizers during the growing season. To spray tomatoes, producers can choose from hydraulic boom sprayers or air-curtain boom sprayers.

If storing tomatoes, then producers must ensure that they can provide storage conditions that meet temperature and relative humidity requirements for tomatoes. For cooling tomatoes, “forced air” units are preferable.

Equipment and Machinery Needs for Tomato Production






Moldboard plow



Rotary tiller


Leveling board


Broadcast spreader


Bed shaper


Mulch layer




Boom sprayer


Mulch lifter and winder and drip tape receiver head


Forced air cold storage


Drip irrigation


Wagon or trailer



Coolong, Tim and George E. Boyhan. 2014. Commercial Tomato Production Handbook. University of Georgia. Athens, GA 30602.

Gaus, Arthur E., Henry F. DiCarlo and Chuck DeCourley. 1993. Fresh Market Tomatoes . University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO 65201.

Harper, Jayson and Michael Orzolek. 2006. Tomato Production. Penn State Extension. University Park, PA 16802.

Rutledge, Alvin D., James B. Wills and Steve Boost. 1999. Commercial Tomato Production. University of Tennessee. Knoxville, TN 37996.

Suslow, Trevor V. and Marita Cantwell. 2013. Tomato: Recommendations for Maintaining Postharvest Quality. University of California Davis. Davis, CA 95616.