- Vegetables: tomatoes
- Pest Management: disease vectors
Currently, fungicides play an important role in fresh market tomato production and are applied on nearly 100% of the tomato hectarage in the north central production region. Most growers initiate fungicide sprays when fruit first set and apply subsequent sprays every 7 to 14 days even if there is no disease risk, resulting in up to 12 or more applications each season.
Recent concerns about fungicide residues on food have affected midwestern tomato production signficantly, which has received attention because of heavy fungicidal use in disease control programs in this region. A disease forecasting system that reduces fungicide use without increasing disease-related losses has been implemented successfully in the Midwest and Ontario for processing tomatoes. However, this forecasting system has not been evaluated for its applicability for fresh market tomato production in the Midwest. Fresh market tomatoes are thin skinned compared to processing tomatoes and are therefore more susceptble to fruit rots. Also, fresh market tomatoes are picked in multiple harvests and graded for blemishes whereas processing fruit are harvested once by machine and not graded on appearance. In this study, fungicide sprays were reduced substantially (a minimum of 36%) by making applications according to a disease forecasting system (TOM-CAST) with fungicide sprays triggered by cumulative disease severity values of 13 to 18. Fungicide sprays applied according to the disease forecaster provided control comparable to that obtained with a calendarized conventional spray program. Depending on the fungicide used, $56 to $150/acre savings were realized with use of this forecasting system. Zone tillage allowed persistence of surface rye residue to limit soil and wind erosion and wind-whipping damage to plants. Conservation tillage, use of cover crops and reduced fungicide inputs have considerable benefit for soil health, soil quality, environmental quality, and overall long-term sustainability of field productivity and profitability.
Evaluate the potential of integrated disease management practices including a disease forecasting model and reduced tillage for the control of early blight, anthracnose, and soil rot in a fresh market tomato system that includes rotation to cucumber, use of rye cover crops, and a mustard green manure.