Bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) and tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.) are warm season vegetable crops extensively grown throughout the United States. The top three states for tomato and bell pepper production are California, Georgia, and Florida. Florida is ranked first in fresh market production. From 2000 to 2015, the harvested acreage for tomato and bell pepper in Florida declined from 15,760 to 13,200 ha and from 7360 to 4880 ha, respectively. This represents a 40% decline in production acreage (Liu et al., 2018). In 2015, the total bell pepper production in Florida was ≈0.2 million metric tons (USDA-NASS, 2016); however, in 2000, it was 0.3 million metric tons. The rapid decline in the production area over the past few years has been caused, in part, by the banning of methyl bromide, increased competition from foreign markets, and increased production costs (Biswas et al., 2017; Guan et al., 2017).
Intercropping is one approach that may help compensate for the increased production costs associated with vegetable crops. Intercropping is a production system that is characterized by growing multiple cultivars or crop species simultaneously in the same field (spatial diversification) using some of the same resources, such as plastic mulch, drip tape, and fumigation (Duval, 2005). It is classified as mixed, relay, or strip cropping based on the production design and transplanting date (Rosa-Schleich et al., 2019). There are many other advantages of intercropping, such as an increase in the number of natural enemies through elevated flower richness, which results in reduced pest incidence as compared with monocultures (Letourneau et al., 2011). A field study conducted in Turkey reported that intercropping systems such as strawberry–onion, strawberry–radish, and strawberry–cos lettuce are known to increase the per-unit productivity and total yields without limiting the yield potential of strawberry grown as the primary crop (Karlidag and Yildirim, 2009).
Competitive interactions between plants for resources is one of the primary challenges associated with intercropping (Theunissen, 1997). However, in relay cropping systems, two or more crops are transplanted on the same bed at different times, with the planting of the second crop typically performed after the maturity of the first crop. It is likely that the degree of competition would be lower, at least in regard to the primary crop, compared with that of other intercropping systems, such as a strip of mixed intercropping. However, the secondary crop could be subjected to severe competition and subsequently have lower yields (Jacques et al., 1997). Many studies have compared relay cropping of cereal crops and grasses (Gaudin et al., 2014); however, there have been limited studies of relay cropping of vegetables such as tomato and bell pepper.
Success of a relay cropping system will rely, in part, on selecting the correct transplanting date for the secondary crop to maximize the resource use efficiency and to ensure maximum overlap of the vegetative growth phase of both plants. It is crucial to determine the degree of competition between the primary and the secondary crops, assess the competition, minimize resource use, and maximize the yield potential of both crops. Early planting of the secondary crop could result in increased competition for resources such as water, nutrients, and light. However, if it is transplanted too late, then shading from the primary crop could become a major limiting factor, particularly for crops with canopy differences. A study of relay cropping melons, squash, and cucumbers indicated that the planting date affected the yields of the crops differently when relay cropping was performed earlier or later in the season (Santos et al., 2008). The differences could be attributable to the warmer temperatures that favored the yield of summer squash; however, the opposite trend was observed for muskmelons. More recently, a series of studies of relay cropping plants such as eggplant, jalapeno pepper, and cantaloupe with strawberry demonstrated the potential of this method in Florida, and it indicated that relay cropping could be profitable for growers without the loss of yield or revenue of the strawberry crop (Sandhu et al., 2020). These studies found that the optimum transplanting date of the secondary crop varies according to the crop, and that revenue is mainly based on the yields of the crops.
In this study, we hypothesized that tomato relay cropped with bell pepper or vice versa would reduce the yields of both crops, and the longer the competitive interval, the lower the yield. The objectives of the study were to: a) determine the optimum date and order of planting the secondary crop (either tomato or bell pepper) in a relay cropping production system, and b) determine the effects of competition between two crops on plant morphology (plant height, biomass, and stem girth) and yield.
Bénard, C., Bernillon, S., Biais, B., Osorio, S., Maucourt, M., Ballias, P., Deborde, C., Colombié, S., Cabasson, C., Jacob, D., Vercambre, G., Gautier, H., Rolin, D., Génard, M., Fernie, A.R., Gibon, Y. & Moing, A. 2015 Metabolomic profiling in tomato reveals diel compositional changes in fruit affected by source–sink relationships J. Expt. Bot. 66 3391 3404
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Bénard, C. Bernillon, S. Biais, B. Osorio, S. Maucourt, M. Ballias, P. Deborde, C. Colombié, S. Cabasson, C. Jacob, D. Vercambre, G. Gautier, H. Rolin, D. Génard, M. Fernie, A.R. Gibon, Y. Moing, A. 2015 Metabolomic profiling in tomato reveals diel compositional changes in fruit affected by source–sink relationshipsJ. Expt. Bot. 66 3391 3404 10.1093/jxb/erv151
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