Evaluation of silver reflective mulch, white inter-row mulch, and plant spacing for increasing yields of bell pepper

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2005: $9,167.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2005
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $6,540.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maine
Project Leader:
Dr. Mark Hutton
University of Maine Coope

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: peppers


  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: feasibility study
  • Pest Management: mulching - plastic
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    Pepper production in Maine and other northern regions is limited by the cool, short growing season. The reflective mulches are relatively new materials that make it possible to re-evaluate pepper production practices. Silver or white mulch used as inter-row mulch, or bed mulch has been demonstrated to allow changes in tomato plant density resulting in increases in yield per area and earliness. This study builds on previous work (2003, 2004) examining the effects of reflective and inter-row mulching on pepper production. In the proposed study we will evaluate two planting densities in combination with three mulching practices on the yield and quality of bell pepper. Detailed records will be maintained on all aspects of each treatment in-order to create enterprise budgets that will be used to make final determinations of treatment effectiveness.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will evaluate the use of inter-row mulches and reflective mulches for improving bell pepper production in commercial pepper fields. We will use black, white and silver mulches and two planting densities to determine how best to grow peppers in Maine. Particular attention will be give to the economics of each production system in terms of physical (mulches, seed/transplants) and cultural (weeding, harvesting) inputs and marketable output total i.e. un-graded yield, graded yield, and amounts and types of cull fruit.

    Research plots will be established in commercial pepper fields on farms located in Lewiston (Belanger and Sons), Manchester (Bell Vue Farm) and the University of Maine Highmoor Farm, Monmouth, Maine. The experiments will be conducted in a split-plot design using three mulch treatments as the main plots: 1) Check treatment, black plastic; 2) Black plastic with white inter-row mulch; 3) Reflective silver plastic mulch (Repel Grow Heat-trap mulch). Plant density will be the split plots: 1) Standard high density, double rows at 18” in-row spacing (9,680 plants/acre); 2) Low density, single row at 12” in-row spacing (7,260 plants/acre). All beds will be on 6’ centers. One pepper variety will be grown at each location and each farm will grow or purchase their transplants. As fruit mature, one harvest crew will make bi-weekly harvests at each location. Harvested fruit will be graded by size and quality; cull fruit will be graded for the type and extent of the defect i.e. rot, sunburn, insect, etc. Records will be kept for time spent harvesting and grading each plot. All costs and time associated for each treatment will be collected. Economic data will be used to create an enterprise budget for these methods of pepper production. Yield will then be statistically analyzed to determine the optimum pepper production method.

    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.