Improved tomato production with summer cover crops and reduced irrigation rates

Qingren Wang, Herbert Bryan, Waldemar Klassen, Yuncong Li, Merlyn Codallo, Aref Abdul-Baki


A tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) production system for Florida that lowers the cost of production per car- ton, and does not require soil fumigation is being developed. To identify the most suitable cover crops and optimum irrigation management for tomatoes, a field experiment was conducted in 2001-2002 with three legume cover crops {sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata Walp. ssp. unguiculata), and velvet bean [Mucuna deeringiana (Bort.) Merr.], one non-legume cover crop [sorghum sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor×S. bicolor)], clean fallow, and four soil water tensions maintained by irrigation: 5, 10, 20, and 30 cbar. The cover crops were planted on 9 May 2001. Two months later, the sunn hemp was mowed at 30 cm above the ground to promote branching, and the cowpea was flail-mowed at ground level and reseeded. During the first week of October, 2001 all of the cover crops were flail-mowed and incorporated into the soil. Each bed was provided with two drip lines and covered with plastic mulch. Tomato seedlings were planted during the 3rd week of October. The dry weights (ton/ha) of biomass returned to the soil were as follows: sunn hemp, 13.7; velvet bean, 11.0; cowpea, 12.0, and sorghum Sudan grass, 5.3. The corresponding tomato total fruit yields (ton/ha) were: 61.3, 59.7, 51.0, 58.9, respectively, and 54.8 from the fallow treatment. The tomato fruit yields were significantly greater with soil water tension maintained near 30 cbar than near 5 cbar. Water use near 30 cbar, was 70% less than near 5 cbar. Thus the use of sunn hemp and velvet bean and reduced levels of irrigation can significantly increase tomato yields and reduce water requirements.


crotalaria juncea; lycopersicon esculentum; mucuna deeringiana; sorghum bicolor×s. bicolor; vigna unguiculata; cowpea; sorghum sudangrass; sunn hemp; velvet bean; water tension

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283