Tomatoes in Spain
Spanish explorers bought the tomato back to Europe from the Americas in the 15th century and the versatile vegetable has been a staple there ever since. Today it is the country’s most consumed and widely grown vegetable crop making up classics such as Andalusian gazpacho and the humble pan con tomate (bread with tomato, olive oil and salt). It is also widely exported, making up 35 percent of European tomato consumption.
Spanish farmer Juan Vizcaino Escamilla has a passion for growing tomatoes. “It is a beautiful thing to be a farmer, because you work with living things you have to take care of them. It’s like having children,” he says. But like many farmers he relies greatly on crop protection to ensure a decent yield against insects such as the white fly. “I could probably still grow tomatoes without crop protection, but my yield would be halved and the quality would be lower,” he says.
In order to sustain Spain’s tomato growers, scientists are using a range of approaches to protect the crop. “We are developing methods that are most effective in protecting our tomatoes from common diseases and pests, while at the same time protecting the environment and human health,” explains plant scientist Luis Martin. “For several years now, tomato growers here have been using a crop protection technique called integrated pest management where we use a combination of improved genetics, chemical protection, and biological solutions such as predatory insects to protect the crop.”