Economics of a Hairy Vetch Mulch System for Producing Fresh-market Tomatoes in the Mid-Atlantic Region

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Concern for the environment has focussed attention on the need for environmentally sound, yet economically profitable, farming practices. A hairy vetch (Vicia villosa L. Roth.) organic mulch system for fresh-market tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) production provides environmental benefits by enhancing the soil and reducing the need for fertilizer and herbicide inputs and is more profitable than conventional practices. Tomato field trials over 3 years at the Beltsville (Md.) Agricultural Research Center compared the hairy vetch mulch system with black polyethylene mulch and bare ground (no mulch). Using partial budget analysis in a farm context, the hairy vetch mulch treatment was more profitable in all years under all market and yield adjustment scenarios. The vetch mulch system also was the preferred system for a risk-averse grower, according to a safety-first criterion. The combination of environmental benefits and the economic benefits to the grower make the hairy vetch mulch system an attractive alternative for producing fresh-market tomatoes in the Mid-Atlantic and parts of northeastern United States.

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