`Sunny' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) containerized transplants were grown with the standard or conventional systems (SS) and with recently developed flotation systems (FS). Standard system and FS transplants, and direct-seeding using coated seeds were evaluated in the field for root and shoot growth and yield at Parrish, Bradenton, and Naples during fall, winter, and spring plantings. Plant growth characteristics were measured weekly before, during, and after transplanting or sowing. In the Parrish and Bradenton Fall 1987 and Bradenton Spring 1988 experiments, SS transplants had greater leaf area, root volume, shoot dry weights, and shoot: root ratios than FS transplants. During early development, the FS transplants had more lateral root growth than SS transplants, but had similar total root growth and horizontal and vertical root distribution after transplanting in the field. Transplants and direct-seeded plants allocated 72% of the total root mass in the upper 0 to 10 cm of the soil. In Fall 1987, SS transplants had between 29% and 41% more fruit yield than FS transplants at Bradenton and Parrish, respectively. In the Naples Winter 1988 and Parrish and Bradenton Fall 1989 experiments, both transplant types had similar fruit yields, but more than direct-seeded plants. Transplants grown with the flotation system are recommended for use provided that seedlings are grown and maintained with minimum hardening before establishment in the field.
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