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Jim E. Wyatt, Don D. Tyler, Craig H. Canaday and Don D. Howard

This study compared conventional tillage (CT), strip tillage (ST), and no tillage (NT) cultures for effects on tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) fruit production. Within each tillage system, fertilization treatments were 60 lb/acre (67.2 kg·ha-1) of nitrogen (N) applied as potassium nitrate in four ways: a 2-ft-wide (0.6 m) strip over the row before transplanting, a 4-ft-wide (1.2-m) strip over the row before transplanting, N banded 6 inches (0.15 m) to the side and 4 inches (0.10 m) below the plant after transplanting, or applied through the drip irrigation system. A treatment of no fertilizer was included in the 1996 study but was discontinued in 1998 and 1999 because yields were low and this would not be a recommended practice in Tennessee. Tillage treatments had no effect on early small, medium, or large tomato yields. In 2 of the 3 years, either ST or CT treatments resulted in the highest total yields. Highest early yields were often produced by applying N in either 2-ft or 4-ft, strips over the row before transplanting. Highest late-season yields were obtained from plants receiving N applied as a band beside the row after transplanting. Results suggest that tomato yield under minimal tillage (ST or NT) was at least equivalent to CT in most years. When the economic benefits of minimal tillage are considered, these results imply that minimal tillage cultural practices are advantageous in tomato production.

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Jim E. Wyatt, Don D. Howard, Don D. Tyler and Craig H. Canaday

Reduced and no-tillage vegetable production is gaining in acceptance in the Southeastern United States. Conventional till, strip-till, and no-tillage systems with different methods of nitrogen application in staked tomatoes were studied in Tennessee. Conventional tillage plots were prepared by disking and harrowing, strip till plots were cultivated ≈16 cm deep with a rear-tine tiller (≈50 cm wide), and no-till plots were established in chemically killed wheat with no cultivation. Four nitrogen treatments were applied at 67.2 kg·ha-1 N using liquid KNO3. The treatments included applying the N either 1) in a 54-cm strip or 2) in a 108-cm strip over the row, 3) by banding ≈10 cm on each side of and ≈10 cm below the row, or 4) by injecting into the drip irrigation system in increments of 11.2, 22.4 and 33.6 kg·ha-1 N at 2, 4, and 6 weeks after transplanting, respectively. Tillage had little effect on tomato yield but the strip till and no-till plots allowed cultivation or spraying soon after a rainstorm. The improved trafficability was a distinct advantage over the conventionally tilled plots in the study. Total yield was significantly higher in strip tilled plots, but within fruit size categories (small, medium, large and extra large) no differences were found due to tillage system. The fertilizer treatments in which N was placed in 54- or 108-cm strips over the row produced the highest yield of early large and early extra large fruit, which are usually the most valuable portion of the crop. Banded and injected nitrogen treatments tended to produce large amounts of fruit late in the season, a period when tomato prices are generally lower.