Comparison of Mixtures vs. Monocultures of Cover Crops for Fresh-market Tomato Production With and Without Herbicide

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  • 1 Weed Science Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD 20705
  • | 2 Vegetable Laboratory, Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Beltsville, MD 20705

Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), and rye (Secale cereale L.) and mixtures of rye with hairy vetch and/or crimson clover were compared for no-tillage production of staked, fresh-market tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) on raised beds. All cover crops were evaluated both with or without a postemergence application of metribuzin for weed control. Biomass of cover crop mixtures were higher than that of the hairy vetch monocrop. Cover crop nitrogen content varied little among legume monocrops and all mixtures but was lower in the rye monocrop. The C:N ratio of legume monocrops and all mixtures was <30 but that of the rye monocrop was >50, suggesting that nitrogen immobilization probably occurred only in the rye monocrop. Marketable fruit yield was similar in the legume monocrops and all mixtures but was lower in the rye monocrop when weeds were controlled by metribuzin. When no herbicide was applied, cover crop mixtures reduced weed emergence and biomass compared to the legume monocrops. Despite weed suppression by cover crop mixtures, tomatoes grown in the mixtures without herbicide yielded lower than the corresponding treatments with herbicide in 2 of 3 years. Chemical name used: [4-amino-6-(1,1-dimethylethyl)-3-(methylthio)-1,2,4-triazin-5(4H)-one](metribuzin).

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