Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/31/2005
Publication Date: 6/30/2005
Citation: Krizek, D.T., Millner, P.D., Camp, M.J., Clark, H.D., Davis, M.G., Butler, B., Teasdale, J.R., Fravel, D.R., Reynolds, S., Mangum, R.A., Currier, T.V. 2005. Disease and management challenges encountered during the first year of growing tomatoes in high tunnels in Beltsville, MD [abstract]. HortScience. 40(4):1071
Technical Abstract: A field study of organic production of tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) in high-tunnels was conducted in 2004. Mountain Fresh was transplanted March 31; Ultra Sweet and Sun Leaper, July 21. The primary objective was to determine the feasibility of obtaining two crops of fresh-market tomatoes by starting plants 4-8 wks earlier than the average last spring-killing frost, and extending the growing season 4-6 wks past the average first fall-killing frost. Plants were started at weekly intervals for four weeks in both seasons. Data and observations were recorded on the yield of marketable fruits, plant growth and development, and plant health. Other objectives were to evaluate: 1) the benefits of using a selective UV-blocking film on plant growth and development, disease events, and 2) compost amendments on soil improvement and disease control. Major cultural challenges included water management, soil texture/drainage, prevention of chilling injury, plant support, and adequate ventilation. Major disease/pest challenges involved stalk rot caused by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum in the spring, powdery mildew in spring and late summer, Alternaria and Septoria leaf blight in late summer, and aphids, tomato hornworm, corn earworm, and beet army worm also in late summer. In addition, macrofaunal intrusions by fox, mice, and birds occurred sporadically. Poor drainage and stalk rot in the spring necessitated relocating the tunnels to an uninfested site with better drainage. The fall crop yielded high numbers of marketable quality fruits, well beyond the Oct. 15 average killing frost date. The results suggest that with improved management there is a considerable potential for profitable extended-season production of organic tomatoes in this region.