Growth Analysis of Tomatoes Grown in Black Polyethylene and Hairy Vetch Mulches

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  • 1 USDA/ARS, Weed Science, Vegetable, and Statistical Consulting Laboratories, Beltsville, MD 20705.

Dry weight and leaf area of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) plants grown on raised beds with black polyethylene (BP) or hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) (HV) mulches were measured at weekly intervals during 1993 and 1994. Leaf area and foliage, fruit, and total weight of tomato plants grown in BP were greater early in the season, but less later in the season than plants grown in HV. The relative growth rate of tomatoes in HV was higher throughout most of each year than that in BP. There was little difference between treatments in unit leaf rate (rate of weight gain per unit leaf area). The growth rate of fruit per unit of tomato foliage was greater in BP than HV, whereas the leaf area to weight ratio was greater in HV than BP. These results suggest that tomatoes grown in BP produce greater early yield because of greater early foliage growth and greater partitioning to fruit than HV. However, tomatoes grown in HV eventually outgrow and outyield those in BP because of greater partitioning to and maintenance of leaf area throughout the season.

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