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Tomato leaves and crop residues


Click on the "Nutritional aspects" tab for recommendations for ruminants, pigs, poultry, rabbits, horses, fish and crustaceans
Common names 

Tomato leaves and crop residues, tomato stubble, tomato shrub, tomato stalk, tomato vine [English); tomatenbladeren en plantenresten [Dutch]; Tomatenblätter und Ernterückstände [German]; feuilles de tomate et résidus de récolte, pieds de tomate [French]; hojas de tomates y residuos de cultivo [Spanish]; folhas de tomates e resíduos de culturas [Portuguese]; 番茄叶和作物残渣 [Chinese]; トマトの葉や作物の残渣 [Japanese]; листья томатов и растительные остатки [Russian]


Lycopersicon esculentum f. pyriforme (Dunal) C. H. Müll., Lycopersicon esculentum var. commune L. H. Bailey, Lycopersicon esculentum var. grandifolium L. H. Bailey, Lycopersicon esculentum var. pyriforme (Dunal) L. H. Bailey, Lycopersicon esculentum var. validum L. H. Bailey, Lycopersicon lycopersicum (L.) H. Karst., Lycopersicon lycopersicum var. cerasiforme auct., Lycopersicon lycopersicum var. pyriforme auct., Lycopersicon pyriforme Dunal, Solanum lycopersicum L.


Tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) leaves and crop residues (stubble, stalk) are the residues of tomato crop: vegetative parts of the plant left on the ground after harvest. They can be used for the following purposes:

  • As fodder in ruminant feeding.
  • To make compost or as a soil amendment to reduce problems of accumulation of residues. However, pathogens present in the residues may form a risk for subsequent crops (Zanon et al., 2011).
  • To make biobased packaging material, particleboards and clothing from tomato plant fibre (Duijvestijn Tomaten, 2021; Taha et al., 2018).

World tomato production was 180 million tons in 2019. The main tomato producers were China, India, Turkey, USA, Egypt, Italy, Iran, Spain, Mexico, and Brazil, which represented together 75 % of the world production (FAO, 2021). The production of tomato yields high quantities of green biomass. In Florida, the above-ground dry matter from green parts (stems and leaves) was ranging from 2 to 5 tons/ha, depending on ferilizers and irrigation method (Zotarelli et al., 2009). From these results, it could be inferred that, over the world (tomatoes cultivated on 5 million ha in 2019 (FAO, 2021), the amount of tomatos leaves and crop residues could be between 10 and 25 million t/year. Tomato crop residues are usually found in the vicinity of tomato fields or greenhouses.


Fermenting was reported to improve crude protein content. Raw tomato leaves which were reported to contain 14.5% crude protein, could be processed with the aim to improve the protein content and nutritional value for ruminants (Seoudi et al., 2013). The leaves were treated with sulfuric acid 0.5 N, boiled for 60 minutes and then fermented with 3 strains of fungus Trichoderma (Trichoderma viridi, T. harzianum, and T. reesei). The chemical treatment increased protein content from 14.5% to 15.1% and fungal fermentation yielded final products containing more than 18% within 10 days of fermentation (Seoudi et al., 2013).

Environmental impact 

Waste reduction

Large amounts of tomato crop residues are produced: the use of these residues as animal fodder is a way to reduce them. They can be used for soil amendment or compost. There have been experiments aiming at using tomato crop residues as soil amendment to fight bacterial wilt from Ralstonia solanacearum in tomato crops (Zanon et al., 2011).

Nutritional aspects
Nutritional attributes 

Tomato leaves and crop residues have by nature a variable composition, due to the different amounts of leaf and stem materials included in the product. As a rule, they have a moderate protein content ranging from 7 to almost 20% DM, with a NDF content that can go from 27% DM to more than 70% DM. Likewise, the lignin content can be quite high due to the presence of stems and is generally above 10% DM. Another characteristic is the very high mineral content (from less than 5% DM to more than 25% DM), which may be explained by the residues picking up dirt on the ground.

Potential constraints 

Pesticides residues

Tomatoes are prone to many pests (bacteria, fungi and insects). When tomatoes cultivated in conventional agriculture are treated with pesticides and herbicides, the amount of which may vary considerably from one country to another, depending on local regulations. Pesticides may remain at various levels in the plant. Prior to feeding animals on tomato crop residues, it is therefore important to know which treatment has been done, and when. This may be particularly important if they are fed to dairy animals because pesticides residues may go to the milk (Ibrahim et al., 2020; El-Sayed et al., 2012).

The amount of several pesticides residues could be reduced in tomato haulms by ensiling them with 3% molasses or with molasses + bacteria (Ibrahim et al., 2020). Ensiling with molasses decreased pesticide residues by 50% and 3% molasses + bacterial/fungal or yeast inoculum reduced them by 90% (Ibrahim et al., 2020). Drying may also be a valuable way to reduce pesticides in tomato haulms (El-Sayed et al., 2012).


There is no toxic substance detectable in the ripe tomato fruit, but green tomatoes contain high amount (1498 µg/g) of glycoalkaloids, 72% of which are still present in traditional fried green tomatoes from the southern US). Children who had made teas from leaves of tomato experienced severe reactions (Hardin, 1974). Tomato plants may contain variable amounts of a-tomatine, dehydrotomatine, toxic glycoalkaloids which are involved in the plant defense against virus, bacteria and insects. In a trial with rabbits, fresh tomato plants containing a-tomatine (1847µg/g in the leaves; 1547 µg/g in the stems), dehydrotomatine (304 µg/g in the leaves; 331 µg/g in the stems) and 20 mg/kg BW of solanine killed all animals within 24 hours (Barceloux, 2008; Patil et al., 1972). Senescent leaves contain up to 4.9 g/kg fresh weight of a-tomatin (Milner et al., 2011). However, a-tomatine, and dehydrotomatine were reported to be relatively less toxic than other glycoalkaloids (Milner et al., 2011).

Nitrate accumulation

Toxic levels of nitrates were found in dried tomato vines (Shlosberg et al., 1996).


There are limited trials using tomato crop residues in ruminants and it is thus difficult to conclude on the utilization of such a material. They should be preferably used dried or ensiled rather than fresh due to pesticide residues that can be transferred into milk. Pesticide residues remain the main potential problem with those products. Tomato plants (stem+leaves) are traditionally used to feed sheep and dairy cows in Costa Rica (Rodriguez-Campos et al., 2014, unpublished).


No adverse effects have been reported so far on ruminants consuming such plants. However, glycoalkaloids have several effects on cells development (Milner et al., 2011). It is thus advised not to feed pregnant females with tomato plants. Because of possible pesticide residues contamination in fresh tomato plants, it is recommended not to feed dairy animals with fresh tomato haulms. Drying and ensiling were reported to effectively reduce pesticide residues in the plant: pesticide residues almost disappeared in milk from dairy animals fed on dried or ensiled materials (Ibrahim et al., 2020; El-Sayed et al., 2012). Though some toxic level of nitrates have been reported in dry tomato leaves, there were no negative effect on beef cow health (Shlosberg et al., 1996).


The in sacco CP degradability of whole tomato plant is low (20%) to medium 42-44 % (Ventura et al., 2009; El-Sayed et al., 2012). In an in sacco experiment in lambs, it was shown that tomato shrub had 17% crude soluble protein, 21% fermentescible protein and 79% (the highest) metabolizable protein in comparison with potato, melon, and strawberry shrubs. It was concluded that it could be used in the supplementation of lambs (Moghaddam et al., 2017). Whole tomato plant has a low in sacco organic matter digestibility (OMD) ranging from 33 % to 41.4 % (Ventura et al., 2009; El-Sayed et al., 2012).

Dairy cows

In Egypt, feeding dairy cows (550 kg) with fresh or dried tomato haulms with the same amount of concentrate did not affect milk yield (11.1 – 11.5 kg/d), but ensiling tomato haulms with fungus or yeast increased milk yield up to 15 kg/d without altering milk composition (El-Sayed et al., 2012).

Growing fattening cattle

In Israel, dried tomato vines , replacing wheat straw in beef cow diets did not cause health problems and did not alter body weight (Shlosberg et al., 1996).

Dairy goats

In Egypt, in dairy goats fed with fresh or ensiled tomato haulm prepared with molasses or bacteria, milk yield, fat and protein content were higher with silages and much higher with bacteria as additive (Ibrahim et al., 2020).


No information could be found on the use of tomato crop residues for pig feeding (as of 2021).


No information could be found on the use of tomato crop residues for poultry feeding (as of 2021).


No information could be found in the international literature on the use of tomato leaves or tomato crop residues in rabbit feeding (as of March 2021). As noted in the Ruminants section, these products are used in ruminants and could thus usable in rabbit feeding. However the presence of glycoalkaloids (see Potential constraints) that are toxic to rabbits makes feeding rabbits with tomato leaves or crop residues no advisable, as noted by some authors (Moore, 2017), until there is evidence to the contrary.

Nutritional tables
Tables of chemical composition and nutritional value 

Avg: average or predicted value; SD: standard deviation; Min: minimum value; Max: maximum value; Nb: number of values (samples) used

Main analysis Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Dry matter % as fed 16.9 7.4 8.7 29.7 6  
Crude protein % DM 12.6 4.3 7.1 19.1 10  
Crude fibre % DM 26.8 15 14.5 43.6 5  
Neutral detergent fibre % DM 42.3 19.4 26.6 76.5 8  
Acid detergent fibre % DM 32.2 11 20.2 49.1 7  
Lignin % DM 17.1 3.7 12.8 22.1 5  
Ether extract % DM 1.9 0.8 1.2 3.3 5  
Ash % DM 15.2 7.5 3.1 26.1 9  
Gross energy MJ/kg DM 16.7         *
Minerals Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Calcium g/kg DM 42.5       1  
Phosphorus g/kg DM 2.1       1  
Sulfur g/kg DM 4.5       1  
Pig nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
Energy digestibility, growing pig % 56         *
DE growing pig MJ/kg DM 9.4         *
MEn growing pig MJ/kg DM 8.8         *
NE growing pig MJ/kg DM 5         *
Nitrogen digestibility, growing pig % 25.7         *
Poultry nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
AMEn cockerel MJ/kg DM 5.5         *
AMEn broiler MJ/kg DM 5.4         *
Ruminants nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
OM digestibility, ruminants % 36.6         *
Energy digestibility, ruminants % 31.5         *
ME ruminants MJ/kg DM 4.2         *
Nitrogen digestibility, ruminants % 46.8         *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=6%) % 32   26 37 2 *
Nitrogen degradability (effective, k=4%) % 34   29 40 2 *
a (N) % 19   16 22 2  
b (N) % 28   24 31 2  
c (N) h-1 0.048   0.046 0.05 2  
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=6%) % 31       1 *
Dry matter degradability (effective, k=4%) % 34       1 *
a (DM) % 19       1  
b (DM) % 25       1  
c (DM) h-1 0.054       1  
Rabbit nutritive values Unit Avg SD Min Max Nb  
DE rabbit MJ/kg DM 7.2         *
MEn rabbit MJ/kg DM 6.9         *
Energy digestibility, rabbit % 43.3         *
Nitrogen digestibility, rabbit % 52         *

The asterisk * indicates that the average value was obtained by an equation.


Alibes et al., 1990; Cerda et al., 1994; El-Sayed et al., 2012; El-Wasiry et al., 2013; Krishna, 1985; Krishna, 1985; Osama et al., 2013; Tekin et al., 2020; Ventura et al., 2009

Last updated on 21/11/2021 22:28:56

Datasheet citation 

Heuzé V., Tran G., Hassoun P., Lebas F., 2021. Tomato leaves and crop residues. Feedipedia, a programme by INRAE, CIRAD, AFZ and FAO. https://www.feedipedia.org/node/694 Last updated on November 21, 2021, 22:39