Fertilizer, plastic mulch treatments benefit tomato yield

October 11, 2016, American Society for Horticultural Science
'Little Becka' sunflowers were grown to delineate mulch and fertilizer treatments applied to 'Plum Dandy' tomato. Credit: C. Rohwer.

Nonreflective plastic mulches have been shown to increase early and total yield in tomato, benefits most often attributed to increased soil temperatures that enhance roots' ability to assimilate nutrients such as phosphorus, a vital contributor to increased yield. Phosphorus- (P) or nitrogen- (N) and phosphorus-containing water-soluble fertilizers applied at transplant have also been recommended to improve establishment and enhance yield of annual vegetables. A new study supports the use of both practices for tomatoes grown in clay loam soils in Minnesota.

Charles L. Rohwer and Vincent A. Fritz from the University of Minnesota evaluated the effects of black plastic mulch, P- and N-containing transplant fertilizer solutions, and combinations of mulch and transplant solutions for increasing and accelerating tomato yield in a fine-texture clay loam soil with little preexisting need for P fertilizers. The study appears in the August 2016 issue of HortTechnology. "Our aim was to determine if the recommendations for transplant fertilizer solutions and plastic mulch are justified, and if the effects are interactive in a clay loam soil with moderate or high levels of existing phosphorus fertility and organic matter," the authors said.

'Plum Dandy' tomato was transplanted in two consecutive years into a field with high fertility. Treatments included black polyethylene mulch or no mulch, and transplant solution containing water, 320 mg/plant nitrogen, or 320 mg/plant nitrogen + 475 mg/plant phosphorus. Mulch was removed 26 to 28 days after transplanting to eliminate midseason and late season effects.

Yield-promoting and maturity-hastening effects were shown in both years from transplant solutions containing both nitrogen and phosphorus (18% greater total ripe fruit weight than water control). Benefits were also shown for using early season black plastic mulch: tomatoes in mulch treatments had 24% greater total ripe fruit weight compared to those with no mulch.

"Recommendations for gardeners and commercial growers in Minnesota to use P-containing transplant solutions seem justified, even in moderate- to high-fertility soils," Rohwer and Fritz said. "Plastic mulch also enhanced early and total yield independent of transplant solution, presumably through increased root-zone temperature." The authors recommend transplant solution and mulch treatments be implemented together to reduce the risk of yield loss in weather-shortened seasons.

The study summarizes fertilizer recommendations for three different types of tomato growers: local (Minnesota) or regional (midwestern United States) commercial growers, or local gardeners.

Explore further: Black or blue? Mulch color affects okra growth, yield

More information: HortTechnology: horttech.ashspublications.org/ … nt/26/4/460.abstract

Related Stories

Black or blue? Mulch color affects okra growth, yield

April 19, 2010

Plastic mulches have been used in vegetable production in the United States since the 1950s. Black plastic (polyethylene) mulch, which alters the plant's growing environment by generating warmer soil temperatures and holding ...

Bioplastic and biofabric tested for cucumber production

June 22, 2016

The use of polyethylene mulch is a common practice in vegetable production, but environmental issues related to the disposal of petroleum-based plastic mulches have producers looking for alternatives. To address environmental ...

Biodegradable mulch films on the horizon

February 26, 2009

In 1999, more than 30 million acres of agricultural land worldwide were covered with plastic mulch, and those numbers have been increasing significantly since then. With the recent trend toward "going green", researchers ...

Living mulch, organic fertilizer tested on broccoli

April 6, 2015

Cover crops provide many benefits to agricultural production systems, including soil and nutrient retention, resources and habitat for beneficial organisms, and weed suppression. In regions where short growing seasons can ...

Weed blasting offers new control method for organic farmers

January 21, 2016

Weeds are a major scourge for organic growers, who often must invest in multiple control methods to protect crop yields. A relatively new weed control method known as abrasive weeding, or "weed blasting," could give organic ...

Recommended for you

Earth's deep mantle flows dynamically

March 25, 2019

As ancient ocean floors plunge over 1,000 km into the Earth's deep interior, they cause hot rock in the lower mantle to flow much more dynamically than previously thought, finds a new UCL-led study.

Scientists solve mystery shrouding oldest animal fossils

March 25, 2019

Scientists from The Australian National University (ANU) have discovered that 558 million-year-old Dickinsonia fossils do not reveal all of the features of the earliest known animals, which potentially had mouths and guts.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.