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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 638: XXVI International Horticultural Congress: Sustainability of Horticultural Systems in the 21st Century

COMPARISON OF ORGANIC AND INORGANIC MULCHES FOR HEIRLOOM TOMATO PRODUCTION

Authors:   E.M. Grassbaugh, E.E. Regnier, M.A. Bennett
Keywords:   Lycopersicon esculentum (Mill.), sustainable agriculture, weed suppression
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2004.638.22
Abstract:
Many tomato growers face challenges in producing their crops due to stricter environmental regulations and fewer chemicals available for weed control. There is a demand for cultural practices that reduce chemical inputs and synthetic materials. Heirloom tomato varieties are becoming more popular among commercial tomato growers due to increased demand from consumers. Since most heirloom tomatoes at present are grown on small acreage, the addition of organic mulches may be a practice feasible for reducing chemical inputs for weed suppression. Heirloom tomatoes were grown using organic mulches (shredded newspaper, wheat straw and composted landscape bark) and an inorganic mulch (black plastic) plus a bare ground control to evaluate their effectiveness on heirloom tomato marketable yield and weed suppression. All treatments were grown with pre-emergence herbicide (high input) and without pre-emergence herbicide (low input). Marketable yields for the 10 treatments ranged from 3.4 to 50 MT/ha and 11.5 to 35.6 MT/ha in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Mulch x herbicide interactions were not significant for yield in either year. Mulches with and without herbicide inputs produced higher yields than unmulched plots in both years. Bare ground control with no herbicide inputs resulted in the lowest yields and highest weed densities and biomass. In an attempt to reduce chemical inputs for weed control in tomato production, organic mulching materials may be a viable option for vegetable growers.

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