Yield, Earliness, and Fruit Weight of Fresh-market Tomatoes Grown in Synthetic and Organic Mulches

in HortScience
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  • 1 1Vegetable, USDA/ARS, Beltsville, Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD 20705.
  • | 2 Weed Science, USDA/ARS, Beltsville, Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD 20705.
  • | 3 3Fruit, USDA/ARS, Beltsville, Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD 20705.
  • | 4 4Nematology Laboratories, USDA/ARS, Beltsville, Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, MD 20705.

Fresh-market tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) cvs. Sunny and Sunbeam were grown in bare soil (BS), Horto paper (HP), black polyethylene (BP), hairy vetch (HV), crimson clover (CC), and hairy vetch plus rye (HVR) mulches. Yields were highest in HV (85.8 t·ha–1), followed by HVR 69.3 t·ha–1) and CC (65.7 t·ha–1), and averaged 47% above BP for the 3-year period. A 5- to 9-day earliness was exhibited by BP over other treatments. Fruit weight was significantly higher in all three organic mulch treatments than in the other three treatments. Mulch biomass was highest in HVR (5.91 t·ha–1), whereas N fixation was highest in HV (188 kg·ha–1). Tomato harvest was extended by the HV treatment over the BP treatment by 3 to 4 weeks, during which tomato prices were higher than those in early or mid-season.

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