Growth analysis was used to document growth responses of staked, fresh-market tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) to black polyethylene or hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) mulches. Leaf area and dry mass of vegetation and fruit were measured weekly during two growing seasons. Growth was better early in the season but worse later in the season for plants grown with black polyethylene than with hairy vetch mulch. Unit leaf rate (rate of growth per unit leaf area) of fruit was higher with black polyethylene than with hairy vetch, whereas the reverse was true of vegetation. This relationship led to a higher leaf area ratio and leaf area duration of plants grown with hairy vetch than with black polyethylene. Consequently, tomatoes grown with black polyethylene produced higher early yield because of increased partitioning to fruit. However, tomatoes grown with hairy vetch eventually outgrew and outyielded those grown with black polyethylene because of increased partitioning to leaf area.
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