CULTURAL PRACTICES TO IMPROVE HEIRLOOM TOMATO YIELD

in HortScience

The cultivar `Mortgage Lifter' was planted in a 2-year trial to evaluate staking systems. All plots were established with black plastic and drip in a randomized complete block design with three or four replications. In year 1, treatments consisted of straw mulch and plants grown on 4 and 8 ft tomato stakes without straw mulch. In year 2, treatments were added to include topping plants at 4 and 6 ft, when plants grew to the top of the stake and down to touch the plastic or not topping. All were grown on 4-ft stakes. Additionally, plants were grown on 8-ft stakes, but topped at 5, 6, 7, and 8 ft. The first year there were no statistical marketable yield differences between plants grown on 4 or 8-ft stakes, but the yields were significantly higher than the straw mulch treatment after the seventh harvest. The straw mulch treatment did have significantly more cull fruit, lower percentage marketable fruit and a smaller marketable fruit size for all harvests compared to the staking treatments. In year two, there were no statistical differences for marketable yield among the treatments until the late harvests (9–12). For the late harvest, all treatments grown on 8-ft stakes had higher marketable yields than all other treatments. When all harvests were combined, the 6- and 7-ft treatments had higher marketable yields with the exception of the 5- and 8-ft treatments and the 6-ft treatment on 4-ft stakes. Cull fruit yields were only significant among treatments for the mid season harvest (5–8) with the straw mulch treatment having more cull fruit than all other treatments. There were no statistical differences for percentage marketable fruit for any harvest.

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