This article summarizes the current status of organic vegetable production practices in California. The production of vegetables organically is growing rapidly in California, led in large part by growth in the market demand for organically grown produce. Key aspects of organic vegetable production operations such as certification and farm production planning, soil management, weed management, insect management, and plant disease management involve special practices. Many practices have not been thoroughly researched and the scientific base for some practices is still being developed.
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.