Root Zone Temperature, Plant Growth, and Fruit Yield of Tomatillo as Affected by Plastic Film Mulch

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  • 1 Department of Horticulture, Coastal Plain Experiment Station–Tifton Campus, University of Georgia, Tifton, GA 31793-0748
  • | 2 Department of Horticulture, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602

Tomatillo (Physalis ixocarpa Brot. ex Hornem) is a popular crop in Mexico and other Latin American countries. There is an increasing demand for this vegetable in the United States, particularly from the growing Latino population. However, there is limited information about tomatillo production. The objectives of this study were to determine the effects of plastic mulches on plant growth, yield, and root zone temperature in two cultivars of tomatillo. The study was conducted in Spring and Summer 2000. The design was a randomized complete block with a split plot arrangement, where plastic film mulch (black, gray, and silver mulches, and bare soil) was the main plot and cultivar (`Toma Verde' and `Verde Puebla]) the subplot. In the spring, mulch treatments had little effect on plant growth during the first 30 days after transplanting and there were no significant differences in fruit yields. In the summer planting, both early growth and fruit yields were greatest with the silver and gray mulch treatments and lowest on bare soil. Plant growth during the establishment was related with subsequent plant growth and yield. In mature plants, vegetative top fresh weight and total fruit yield were higher (P < 0.01) in the spring than in the summer. Total fruit yield (both seasons), marketable yield (spring) and cull yield (spring) were lower in `Toma Verde' than in `Verde Puebla'. Root zone temperatures (RZTs) in the spring (mean = 26.4 °C) were lower than in the summer (mean = 29.3 °C). In both seasons, mean RZT was highest under black mulch and lowest in bare soil. In the summer, plant growth and fruit yields tended to decrease with increasing RZTs. Tomatillo plants grown on mulches with a mean seasonal RZT of 30 °C had fruit yields that were 65% (`Toma Verde') or 50% (`Verde Puebla') lower respectively than those of plants on mulches with a RZT of 27 °C. There were no significant differences in foliar concentrations of N, Ca, Mg, S, B, Zn, Cu and Na among mulches. Foliar concentrations of the majority of mineral nutrients were not related with the mean RZT for the season.

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