Development of sustainable vegetable production systems for south Florida and Virginia based on use of cover crops and precision irrigation

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $179,776.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $194,400.00
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Waldemar Klassen
Tropical Research and Education Center

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: sorghum (milo)
  • Vegetables: peppers, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: cover crops, municipal wastes, nutrient cycling, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: biological control, cultural control, mulches - killed, mulching - plastic
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    A biologically-based system for winter production of fresh-market tomatoes in south Florida was devised. In fields not heavily infested with nutsedges, root knot nematodes or Fusarium spp., this summer cover crop green manure-based system produced similar tomato yields but with higher profits than those in the methyl bromide-based system. The development of a biologically-based pepper production system is in progress. An organic potato production system based on legume and grass cover crops, developed in Virginia, produces more tonnage of tubers than the methyl bromide-based system. An inexpensive automated irrigation/fertigation system was developed with potential to facilitate vegetable production in proximity to fragile natural ecosystems.

    Tables, figures or graphs mentioned in this report are on file in the Southern SARE office.
    Contact Sue Blum at 770-229-3350 or for a hard copy.

    Project objectives:

    1.Develop sustainable production systems for tomato, pepper and potato each based on use of nematode- and pathogen-resistant cover crops (cowpea, oat, sorghum sudangrass, sunn hemp, velvetbean) instead of chemical soil sterilants such as methyl bromide.

    2.Assess the effects of a cover crop based system on (a) crop yields and (b) population densities of plant parasitic nematodes, weeds and other serious pests.

    3.Conduct research to reliably attain major gains in crop yields (e.g. attempt to double tomato yields) through science-based management of irrigation, fertigation and improvement of soil quality. Study the feasibility of using automated irrigation system and soil moisture sensors to maintain the optimum moisture level in the root zone, and prevent leaching of nutrients.

    4.Develop enterprise budgets of the cover crop-based production systems vs. those based on use of methyl bromide. Determine social or economic constraints to adoption of advantageous systems, and identify appropriate measures to facilitate adoption if warranted.

    5.Disseminate research findings and facilitate adoption of sustainable vegetable production systems in Florida, Virginia and other southern states.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.