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Francis M. Itulya, Vasey N. Mwaja, and John B. Masiunas

Field experiments were conducted in 1992 and 1993 to determine the effect of N fertility, cropping system, redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus L.) density, and harvesting frequency on collard (Brassica oleracea var. acephala D.C) and cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] growth. The N fertilization regimes were 0, 80, 160, and 240 kg·ha-1, applied as urea in a split application. Four weeks after crop planting, redroot pigweed was seeded at 0, 300, and 1200 seeds/m2. Between weeks 6 and 12, collard leaves were harvested at 1- to 3-week intervals. Year, N fertility, and cropping system interacted to determine collard leaf number and mass. For example, in 1992, with N at 160 kg·ha-1, collards intercropped had more total leaf mass than those monocropped. Pigweed density had no effect on collard yields, which were greatest from the 3-week harvest frequency. Cropping system and pigweed density interacted to determine cowpea vine length, shoot dry mass, and branching. The high density of pigweed caused a 56% reduction of cowpea dry mass in 1992.

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Mwanarusi Saidi, Francis M. Itulya, Joseph N. Aguyoh, and Mathieu Ngouajio

Cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.] is an important component of most traditional cropping systems in the semiarid tropics. It provides both leaf vegetable and/or grain. Dual-purpose production of cowpea is most common in subsistence farming systems. Little is, however, known about the effects of cowpea leaf harvesting on tissue nitrogen composition and productivity of most cowpea-based cropping systems. A four-season study was carried out at the National Dry Land Research Center, Katumani, Kenya, to establish the effects of cowpea leaf harvesting initiation time and frequency on 1) tissue nitrogen content of cowpea and maize in a dual-purpose cowpea–maize intercropping systems; and 2) cowpea and maize yield and the overall productivity of a cowpea–maize intercrop measured by land equivalent ratio (LER). Cowpea leaf harvesting was initiated at 2, 3, or 4 weeks after emergence (WAE) and continued at 7- or 14-day intervals until onset of flowering. Cowpea tissue nitrogen content was highest in the control treatment and lowest in cowpea subjected to leaf harvesting from 2 WAE or at 7-day intervals, whereas maize tissue nitrogen content showed the reverse trend. Harvesting cowpea leaves from 3 WAE or at 7-day intervals gave the highest leaf vegetable yield, whereas grain yields were highest when no leaf harvesting was done. Maize yields were significantly improved by harvesting of leaves of the companion cowpea. Harvesting cowpea leaves for use as leaf vegetable increased productivity per unit area of land as measured by LER with the highest productivity achieved when leaf harvesting was initiated at 4 WAE or done at a 14-day interval.

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Elisha O. Gogo, Mwanarusi Saidi, Francis M. Itulya, Thibaud Martin, and Mathieu Ngouajio

Unfavorable environmental conditions, pests, and viral diseases are among the major factors that contribute to poor growth and quality of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) seedlings in tropical areas. Improving crop microclimate and excluding insects that transmit viruses may improve transplant quality and yield in production fields. This study was carried out in two seasons at the Horticulture Research and Teaching Field of Egerton University in Njoro, Kenya, to investigate the effects of agricultural nets herein called eco-friendly nets (EFNs) on germination and performance of tomato seedlings. Tomato seeds were either raised in the open or under a permanent fine mesh net (0.4-mm pore diameter). Eco-friendly net covers modified the microclimate resulting in significantly higher day temperatures and relative humidity, compared with the open treatment. Nets increased temperature and relative humidity by 14.8% and 10.4%, respectively. Starting seeds under a net advanced seedling emergence by 2 days and resulted in higher emergence percentage, thicker stem diameter, more leaves, and faster growth leading to early maturity of seedlings and readiness for transplanting. Netting improved root development by increasing root quantity and length. Stomatal conductance (g S) and estimates of chlorophyll content were higher in seedlings under net covering compared with those in the noncovered control treatment. Insect pests and diseases were also reduced under net covering. The use of the net in the production of tomato transplants presented a 36.5% reduction in the cost of seeds, through improved emergence and reduced pest damage. All other factors held constant, healthy and quality transplants obtained under a net covering also translate into better field performance; hence, increasing economic returns for commercial transplants growers, as well as for tomato farmers. Results of this study suggest that EFNs can be customized not only for their effective improvement on growth and quality of tomato transplants but also for their pest and disease management in the nursery alone or as a component of integrated pest and disease management.