Mustard (Brassica spp.) cover crop residue has been reported to have significant `biofumigant' action when incorporated into soil, potentially providing disease suppression and yield improvement for the succeeding crop. The effects of growing over-winter mustard cover crops preceding processing tomato (Lycopersicon escultentum Mill.) production were investigated in six field trials in the Sacramento Valley of California from 2002–04. A selection of mustard cover crops were compared to a legume cover crop mix, a fallow-bed treatment (the current grower practice in the region), and in two of the six trials, fumigation treatments using metam sodium. Mustard cover crops removed 115 to 350 kg·ha–1 N from the soil profile, reducing NO3-N leaching potential. Soil populations of Verticillium dahliae Kleb. and Fusarium spp. were unaffected by the cover crops, and there was no evidence of soilborne disease suppression on subsequent tomato crops. Mustard cover crops increased tomato yield in one field, and reduced yield in two fields. In one of two fields, metam sodium fumigation significantly increased tomato yield. We conclude that, while environmental benefits may be achieved, mustard cover cropping offers no immediate agronomic benefit for processing tomato production.
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