The Effects of Mechanical Conditioning on Tomato Transplant Growth and Field Performance

in HortScience
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  • 1 Dept. of Horticultural Sciences, NYSAES, Cornell Univ., Geneva, NY 14456.

Stretching is a problem in high-density transplant production. Mechanical conditioning provides good height control for many crops, but information concerning the dosage and timing of stimulation, and possible effects on field performance are necessary for successful commercial implementation. Mechanical conditioning was applied to processing tomatoes (`Ohio 8245') grown in #288-deep flats (≈2000 plants/m2). Brushing was applied by daily gentle stroking of the plant canopy with a Styrofoam planter flat. The appropriate dose as determined by stroking 0, 10, 20, or 40 times daily back and forth. Twenty strokes provided sufficient height control with minimal plant damage. The interval between strokes was also varied, using 0.6 6, 60, or 600 s. These intervals were all equally effective in reducing the growth rate of the canopy. This broad range provides flexibility in commercial use of this technique. To test for effects on field performance, two methods of conditioning were used: brushing and impedance. Brushing was 20 continuous strokes daily. The impeded plant canopy was compressed slightly by a piece of Plexiglas suspended overnight. The treatments were applied from canopy closure until transplanting to the field. At transplanting, brushed and impeded plants were significantly shorter than control plants without a reduction in shoot dry weight. The treatments did not affect the speed at which the plants grew in the field. Within 5 weeks after transplanting, there were no significant differences between treatments in any measured parameter, including final yield. Therefore, both brushing and impedance provide a flexible and effective method for controlling tomato transplant height without adversely affecting establishment or yield.

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