Final Report for FNE06-573
Due to concerns with the material and labor costs and environmental concerns regarding the use and disposal of the conventional mulch polyethylene sheeting, the purpose of this project was to compare and evaluate alternative mulching techniques for crop production and cost to the farmer. To do this, 5 mulch treatments (straw, compost, polyethylene sheeting, landscape fabric, and bare soil) were compared in regards to tomato production and labor time per person. Two different varieties of tomato were used in this experiment (slicing and paste) and each treatment was replicated three times. Over two growing seasons, biomass output and labor input were recorded for the different mulch treatments. Results showed compost to be the best mulch type for increasing produce yields, while landscape fabric was shown to be the best alternative for reducing labor and material costs over the long-term. In assessing these findings, it has been determined that the next possible step would be to evaluate the effects of these different mulches on the physical, chemical, and biological components of the soil throughout the growing season, in order to further improve crop quality and yield.