603 Cover Crop Mulches for Tomato Production in South Florida as an Alternative to Methyl Bromide

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  • 1 University of Florida, IFAS, Tropical Research and Education Center, 18905 S.W. 280 St., Homestead, FL 33031
  • 2 U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Vegetable Laboratory, Beltsville, MD 20705-2350

In the quest to produce tomatoes without using methyl bromide, cover crops including sunnhemp, cowpea, hairy vetch, and sorghum sudan were planted on calcareous gravelly soils of southern Florida in Oct. 1998. These crops, singly or in mix, were grown on raised beds for 3 months before they were mowed down with no tillage. Sorghum sudan was plowed down and covered with plastic mulch, a conventional farming practice. In addition, uncropped plots fertilized with 6 N–2.6P–10K at 0 or 1124 kg·ha–1 were either treated with or without methyl bromide-chloropicrin and plowed down. `Sanibel' tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) were transplanted in two plant densities (one row vs. two rows on a bed) immediately after mowing. Tomatoes were fertigated with 112 N and 186 K kg·ha–1 during the growing season. Sunnhemp biomass alone or in mix with cowpea was higher than any other treatment. Biomass of sorghum sudan and hairy vetch were lowest. Canopy coverage, nutrient content of cover crops, and their effects on tomato growth, nutrient content, and yield will be discussed.

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