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Aref A. Abdul-Baki, J.R. Teasdale, R. Korcak, D. Chitwood, and R Huettle

Fresh-market tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) cvs. Sunny and Sunbeam were grown in bare soil (BS), Horto paper (HP), black polyethylene (BP), hairy vetch (HV), crimson clover (CC), and hairy vetch plus rye (HVR) mulches. Yields were highest in HV (85.8 t·ha–1), followed by HVR 69.3 t·ha–1) and CC (65.7 t·ha–1), and averaged 47% above BP for the 3-year period. A 5- to 9-day earliness was exhibited by BP over other treatments. Fruit weight was significantly higher in all three organic mulch treatments than in the other three treatments. Mulch biomass was highest in HVR (5.91 t·ha–1), whereas N fixation was highest in HV (188 kg·ha–1). Tomato harvest was extended by the HV treatment over the BP treatment by 3 to 4 weeks, during which tomato prices were higher than those in early or mid-season.

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Aref A. Abdul-Baki, J.R. Teasdale, R. Korcak, D.J. Chitwood, and R.N. Huettel

A low-input sustainable agricultural system for the production of staked, fresh-market field tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) is described. The system uses winter annual cover crops to fix N, recycle leftover nutrients, produce biomass, and prevent soil erosion throughout the winter and spring. Yields of tomato plants grown in hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), and rye (Secale cereale L.) plus hairy vetch mulches were higher than those grown in the conventional black polyethylene (BP) mulch system in 2 of 3 years. Fruit were heavier with the plant mulches than with BP mulch. Eight weeks after transplanting, N levels in tomato leaves were higher with plant than with BP mulch, although the plant mulch plots received only 50% of the N applied to the BP plots. The cover crops had no effect on populations of five phytoparasitic nematode species.