Initial growth and development

After several leaves have formed (7-12) the growing point changes from vegetative to reproductive, and a cluster of flower buds are formed that ultimately develop into the first flower cluster or truss. Vegetative growth continues in the form of a side shoot growing from the axil of the last leaf. This side shoot forms a small number of leaves (2-4) and then differentiates to form the second flower truss along with a new vegetative growing point. Thus, the greenhouse tomato develops as a succession of side shoots; this process is known as a sympodial, or indeterminate, growth (Fig. 4). A peculiar thing happens every time the plant turns vegetative and a new growth starts to develop from the axil of the last leaf: this last leaf, which is formed before flower initiation, is carried up on its axillary growth and ultimately appears at a higher position than the truss.

The final result is that the stem appears continuous and the trusses seem to arise at internodal positions, whereas in fact they are growing out of the axil of the first leaf above them. Occasionally, strong side-shoots develop from several leaves, resulting in confusion as to which shoot is the leader and which shoots should be removed by pruning. To be certain that the leader is not accidentally removed, always pull out the side shoots arising from the leaf immediately below each truss, thus allowing the main growing point of each plant to remain intact. The number of leaves that form before the first flower truss varies from cultivar to cultivar but is also influenced by environmental conditions. Most cultivars produce a minimum of seven leaves before the first flower truss and thereafter usually three leaves between trusses.

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