Mulches May Help Commercial Farmers
July 7, 2003
Agricultural Research Service scientists
are trying to find ways to help commercial tomato growers produce their crop
and keep the environment healthy at the same time.
In a cooperative project, ARS chemists Cathleen Hapeman of the
Laboratory in Beltsville, Md., Pamela Rice of the
Soil and Water
Management Research Laboratory in St. Paul, Minn., and Don Wauchope of the
Southeast Watershed Research
Laboratory in Tifton, Ga., are comparing various management practices to
find ways to reduce or possibly eliminate pollution in tomato production.
Wauchope and Rice are exploring a computer model's application to determine
the fate and transport of pesticides. Rice, formerly of the Environmental
Quality Laboratory, is using the model in conjunction with her research on the
effect of agricultural management practices on movement of
pesticides--specifically copper--with water.
Copper, applied as copper hydroxide, is the most widely used
fungicide-bactericide for control of tomato diseases. Copper from this
pesticide formulation has been found in runoff from fields that have plastic
mulch. Copper can be harmful to aquatic creatures.
Hapeman and Rice are exploring the use of certain vegetative mulches like
cereal rye. When rye is grown between rows of tomatoes that are covered in
plastic mulch, pesticide movement from the field is slowed down. In a 2-year
study, Rice and Hapeman also found there was less runoff volume and less soil
erosion, common problems for tomato producers that use plastic mulch
Read more about this research in the July 2003 issue of Agricultural
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.