171 Improving Tomato Production with Summer Cover Crops in South Florida

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  • 1 University of Florida, IFAS, Tropical Research and Education Center, 18905 S.W. 280 St., Homestead, FL 33031

Cover crops have become an integral part of vegetable production practices in south Florida for weed control and retaining nutrients during the heavy summer rains. A wide variety of plants are used as cover crops in south Florida. Obviously, legumes contribute more nitrogen by fixing N compared to nonlegumes such as sorghum sudan grass, which is a common cover crop in this area. We have evaluated 10 cover crops, where six were legumes in 1997. In 1998, four cover crops (sunnhemp, sorghum sudan, sesbania, and aeschynomene) were evaluated. The sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) stands out from other tested cover crops for 2 years. Sunnhemp produced 8960 to 11,400 kg dry weight/ha and fixed up to 285 kg N/ha. The evaluation of effects of sunnhemp and other cover crops on the following tomato growth and yield are still in progress and will be discussed.

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