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Cover, photo of scientist examining mulch around tomato plants: Click here to view publication online (pdf file).

Sustainable Production of Fresh-Market Tomatoes and Other Vegetables With Cover Crop Mulches

by John Teasdale and Aref Abdul-Baki

The alternative production system described in this bulletin focuses on the winter annual legume hairy vetch (Vicia villosa L. Roth), both as a cover crop and as a mulch in a sustainable tomato production system. As a cover, vetch serves to fix nitrogen, recycle nutrients, reduce soil erosion and compaction, and add organic matter to the soil. When converted to a mulch, the residue reduces weed emergence, reduces water loss from the soil, acts as a slow-release fertilizer, and suppresses some pathogens and pests. Though research on this mode of production was originally confined to growing tomatoes in stands of hairy vetch, further study has shown that the underlying concept can be easily modified to suit other crops and regional growing conditions. Some direct-seeded vegetables can be grown effectively, as can winter vegetables in subtropical climates. Other cover crops can be selected and even seeded in beneficial mixtures to suit local growing conditions. Color, 32 pages.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Farmers’ Bulletin 2280

October 2007

While supplies last, you may order one free copy by mail from John Teasdale, USDA-ARS-SASL, 10300 Baltimore Ave., Bldg. 001, Room 245, Beltsville, MD 20705, or by e-mail.

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