Many strawberry growers in Florida relay crop vegetables with strawberries or grow multiple crops on the same plastic mulch. The practice can reduce the overall input costs per crop but weed management can be problematic. Field experiments designed as a split plot were conducted in Balm and Dover, FL over two successive strawberry-growing seasons from Oct. 2014 to Mar. 2015 (year 1) and Oct. 2015 to Mar. 2016 (year 2) and two successive muskmelon-growing seasons from March to July 2015 (year 1) and March to July 2016 (year 2). The objectives were to examine the effect of summer fallow programs and the presence or absence of a relay-crop on weed density and strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duchesne) and muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) yields. Summer fallow programs included leaving the plastic mulch in place and reusing it in year 2, a sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) cover crop, or a conventional chemical fallow. Relay cropping muskmelon with strawberries had no effect on strawberry yield. Summer fallow programs had no effect on muskmelon growth and yield in Balm and Dover, as well as strawberry growth and yield in Balm. In Dover, the plastic mulch summer fallow had 22% to 34% lower berry yield in year 2 compared with cover crop and chemical fallow, respectively. In year 2, relay-cropping was more effective in reducing total weed density compared with strawberry monoculture in Dover but not in Balm. In year 2 in Dover, averaged overall summer fallow programs, the total weed density was ≈3-fold less in relay-cropping than strawberry monoculture. Of all the summer fallow programs evaluated, leaving the plastic mulch in place combined with glyphosate was the most effective summer fallow program, whereas the conventional chemical fallow was the least effective at weed suppression. We conclude that relay cropping or double use of plastic mulch for successive strawberry crops are viable options for Florida strawberry growers.
This research was funded by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program and the Florida Strawberry Research and Education Foundation.
We would like to thank the staff of Jaymar Produce and Brad Booker for assistance with crop production. We would also like to thank Mike Sweat, Nicole Billera, Hector Torres, Matthew Parks, and Radhika Rijal for their assistance.
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