- Vegetables: tomatoes
- Crop Production: fertigation, irrigation, nutrient cycling, tissue analysis
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, feasibility study
- Production Systems: holistic management
- Soil Management: nutrient mineralization
Small family farms that aim to reduce or eliminate pesticide use in vegetable production are increasingly interested in learning and adopting the grafting technology. In addition to disease management, grafting technology has been suggested as an innovative approach to improving nutrient and water use efficiency in vegetable production through appropriate selection of rootstocks. Yet, systematic research is needed to provide growers with updated information to better integrate this technology into sustainable farming systems. The objective of this 2-year study is to evaluate the response of grafted tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) plants to different nitrogen (N) application rates (56, 75, 148, 224, 298, and 372 kg ha-1) and irrigation regimes (low and optimum). A popular tomato cultivar 'Florida-47' will be used as scion to graft onto two selected rootstocks with vigorous root systems and high resistance to soilborne pathogens and root-knot nematodes. Grafted and non-grafted control plants will be grown in plastic-mulched raised beds with drip irrigation in sandy soils in North Florida. Crop growth and development parameters, fruit yield, N and water use efficiency, and fruit quality will be compared between grafted and non-grafted plants. Moreover, partial budget analysis will be conducted to determine the economic feasibility for growing grafted tomatoes to optimize N and water management. Results of this study will be disseminated through field days and UF small farms website. This project will provide recommendations for application of vegetable grafting technique in sustainable agriculture to integrate environmental stewardship, crop productivity, food quality, and farm profitability.
Project objectives from proposal:
The goal of this project is to investigate the potential of grafting to reduce irrigation water and N fertilizer requirements in commercial tomato production and the feasibility for its implementation in BMPs to improve sustainability of the tomato cropping systems in Florida. Specific objectives are:
1. Evaluate the yield, biomass and N accumulation responses of grafted tomato to different combinations of irrigation regimes and nitrogen fertilization rates under field conditions. Underlying hypothesis is that maximum yield and biomass accumulation can be produced with lower than recommended N and water rates when plants are grafted with specific rootstocks;
2. Determine whether grafting can alter the nutritional quality attributes of grafted tomato fruit. It is hypothesized that grafting does not adversely affect the quality of fresh marketable tomato fruit;
3. Assess the economic feasibility of the grafted tomato production systems. It is hypothesized that appropriate use of grafting technique can enhance the economic sustainability of existing vegetable production systems.