Submitted to: American Journal of Alternative Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: August 31, 1998
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: This study was undertaken to design, develop, and validate an alternative production system for fresh market tomato which will eliminate dependence upon broad spectrum soil fumigants for soil disinfestation, minimize production costs, improve soil conservation, and optimize yields. A production system which utilizes minimum tillage practices in association with established pasture of bahiagrass was created to achieve the multiple goals outlined above. The system was validated by a commercial tomato producer. This study is important as it is the first validated example of an alternative to preplant fumigation with methyl bromide in which the investigators designed the production system to minimize the impact of soilborne pests rather than find alternative ways to disinfest the soil.
An alternative, low-input production system for fresh market tomato was developed using strip tillage practices in conjunction with established bahiagrass pasture. The alternative system was designed to avoid the impact of soilborne pests, minimize agricultural inputs, improve soil conservation and optimize yields. Field experiments indicated that competition from bahiagrass for nutrients within the tilled strip significantly impacted yield. Selective colonization of tomato roots by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi isolated from field plots was observed. Damage from root-knot nematodes was minimized by planting tomato into established bahiagrass pastures. The alternative system was validated on a commercial tomato production farm in a side by side comparison with a conventional production system consisting of raised beds, fumigated with methyl bromide and covered by polyethylene plastic. Yields were 6.5 metric tons per ha greater under the conventional system. However, the net return was $568 per ha greater in the alternative system. The results indicate that the alternative system has the potential to replace or supplement the conventional production system.