Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/19/2011
Publication Date: 5/1/2011
Citation: Kornecki, T.S., Arriaga, F.J. 2011. Impact of different cover crops and types of transplanter mounted subsoiler shanks on tomato yield. HortScience. 46(5):715-720.
Interpretive Summary: Because of many important benefits, cover crops are an essential component of conservation systems, but they must be managed appropriately as not to interfere with the planting of cash crops. Rolling/crimping of cover crops, such as rye and crimson clover that produce large amounts of biomass, is a technology for managing cover crops and has been utilized in vegetable production. In one of four growing seasons (2008), tomatoes planted into plastic mulch produced higher total yield and number of fruit per plant. However, in 2007, when a severe drought occurred, tomatoes planted into rye residue produced significantly higher total and marketable yield in comparison to the plastic mulch control and clover, indicating that the rye cover crop was better for conserving soil water for tomato use. Cover crops and shank treatments did not affect percentage of marketable tomato yield. Inexplicably, the minimum soil temperature for rye was higher compared to plastic and clover in 2008. In two years out of four (2005 and 2006), there were no differences among treatments in total marketable tomato yield. Since the maximum soil temperature was recorded under clover during four years compared to rye, it appears that lower clover biomass production lead to incomplete soil cover, resulting in more weed pressure and lower water availability that affected tomato yield. Use of a rye cover crop appears to be a feasible alternative to plastic mulch for tomato production in Alabama.
Technical Abstract: A four year experiment with different tillage practices for tomatoes was conducted in Cullman, AL to determine the impact of plastic mulch (control), rye and crimson clover cover crops, and different subsoiler shanks (no shank, slim 13 mm thick, and wide 20 mm thick) on tomato yield. Overall, in 2007 and 2008 growing seasons total tomato (between 58,905 and 60,115 kg/ha) and marketable tomato yields (between 48,331 and 49,873 kg/ha) were significantly higher than in 2005 and 2006 (between 49,656 and 50,151 kg/ha and from 40,581 to 41,194 kg/ha) for total and marketable tomato yields, respectively. In two of four growing seasons 2006 and 2008, plastic cover provided higher yield 60,921 and 73,718 kg/ha, compared with rye and crimson clover over all shank treatments. In 2007, higher yield was produced following rye without shank (70,577 kg/ha) compared with plastic mulch and crimson clover treatments. Across years, tomato yield after crimson clover was lower compared with rye and plastic. Percent of marketable fruit yield to total yield exceeded 80% in all treatments including the plastic control. Cover crops and shank treatments did not affect percentage of marketable tomato yield compared to total tomato yield. Cover crop, especially rye, can provide an alternative to tomato production for those producers not wanting to use plastic mulches.