Improving Growing Practices for Processing Tomatoes Using Rodale Roller Crimper
Our objective is to evaluate the use of the Rodale Roller Crimper for processing tomato farming. While the use of the Rodale Crimper has been researched to improve growing methods for other types of produce and for fresh market tomatoes, its use for processing tomatoes remains largely unknown.
The Rodale Crimper provides a mechanical kill to cover crops such as rye to create a natural mulch. This natural mulch improves weed and pathogen suppression while enriching the soil and increasing water conservation. The natural mulch also helps avoid the use of plastic mulch and reduces the need for chemical-based weed control and fertilizer. It also avoids the use of chemicals in killing cover crops.
The processing tomato market is fundamentally different from its fresh market tomato counterpart, necessitating a research project tailored to its needs. Specifically, the use of the Crimper must be compatible within the context of mechanical harvesting methods and equipment. To successfully use the Crimper, the rye mulch created by the Crimper must be sufficiently deteriorated by harvest time as to not interfere with a tomato harvester.
Our research project initially started in the 2011 season. Due to a number of issues (weed pressure, Hurricane Irene), we decided to replicate our project during the 2012 season. The new site of our experiment was the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in Pittsgrove, NJ. All aspects of the project were successfully completed aside from writing the final report and completing our outreach activities.
The second trial of our experiment was successful in demonstrating that the Roller Crimper can be used within the context of mechanically harvesting processing tomatoes. We grew four 200 foot rows of processing tomatoes. Two rows used traditional methods (bare ground) while the other two rows used the Crimper to create a rye mulch within which our plants were transplanted. At harvest, we used a mechanical harvester to successfully harvest the tomatoes. The rye mulch had sufficiently decomposed and did not interfere with the harvester.
No results have changed our approach so far. With the Rodale Roller Crimper working within a mechanical harvest environment, the next steps from a research perspective would be to fully evaluate the quality of the yield in a test and control environment and fully assess possible economic and environmental benefits of the use of the Crimper for processing tomato agriculture.
Our own farm has not changed since the project started. However, the farm we used to carry out this experiment was the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station in Pittsgrove, NJ.
No conditions affected our results for the 2012 season. The 2011 season was affected by significant weed pressure and disruptions caused by Hurricane Irene.
Aside from Theresa Viggiano and Patrick Leger (First Field), we have been working very closely with Dr. Jack Rabin, our technical advisor from Rutgers University. We have also worked with Dr. Thomas Orton, also of Rutgers. Michael Brooks of Brooks Farms assisted at harvest time by transporting and using the harvester from Brooks Farms.
1097 Canal Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Office Phone: 8582455600
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
88 Lipman Drive
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Office Phone: 7329325000