Trials were conducted in 2002 and 2003 in California's San Joaquin Valley to determine the efficiency of reflective plastic and wheat straw in managing silverleaf whitefly and aphid-borne virus diseases in late planted cantaloupes. In 2002, the incidence of aphid-borne viruses was lowest in plants growing over reflective plastic followed by those growing over wheat straw and then those growing over bare soil. Wheat straw mulch was as effective as reflective plastic during the early part of the growing season in reducing the incidence of virus disease, but by mid-season, the reflective plastic was superior. The incidence of virus diseases in plants growing over wheat straw was significantly (P < 0.05) lower than that in plants growing over bare soil throughout the season. Whitefly numbers (nymphs per cm2) and aphid numbers were significantly reduced on plants growing over both reflective mulch and wheat straw mulch compared to those growing over bare soil. Yields of all sizes of melons were significantly higher in the reflective mulch plots and yield for the straw mulched and bare soil plots were not significantly different. Results in 2003 were similar to those of 2002. Both whitefly numbers and aphid numbers were significantly lower in plants growing over both mulches than in those growing over bare soil. Virus incidence was initially low but following an aphid flight in late August, the number of infected plants increased rapidly. Both the reflective plastic and straw provided equal protection form aphid-borne viruses throughout the growing season. Yields were highest in the reflective plastic plots, followed by the straw mulch and finally the bare soil. Differences were significant (P < 0.05) among all three treatments.
Two field comparisons of conservation tillage tomato production alternatives following wheat were conducted in California's Central Valley. Both studies compared: 1) standard tillage; 2) bed disk or permanent bed minimum tillage; and 3) strip-tillage following winter wheat crops that were harvested the previous June. Processing tomatoes were produced at the site in Davis, Calif., and fresh market tomatoes were grown in Parlier, Calif. At both sites, establishing tomatoes using a commercial transplanter or a modified conservation tillage transplanter achieved adequate stands even in the minimally-tilled strip-till system. Timing of the strip till operation, however, is critical so that large chuncks of dry soil are not brought up and so that these do not create very rough bed surfaces that may cause harvest problems, particularly for processing tomatoes. Machine harvesting the crop at the Davis site did not seem to create any mechanical difficulties or generate additional trash going into the harvest trailer. This may have been due to the fact that by harvest time, the majority of the surface residue from the previous wheat crop had already been broken down or at least sufficiently worked into the soil to pose minimal mechanical harvester impedance or contamination. Tomato yields for the reduced till systems equalled yields of the standard till systems at both sites.