The effect of nitrogen source and crop rotation on the growth and yield of processing tomatoes
- Cite this article as:
- Cavero, J., Plant, R.E., Shennan, C. et al. Nutr Cycl Agroecosyst (1996) 47: 271. doi:10.1007/BF01986282
Four crop rotation and management systems were studied in 1994 and 1995 in relation to growth and yield of irrigated processing tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.). The four treatments were three four-year rotation systems [conventional (conv-4), low input and organic] and a two-year rotation system [conventional (conv-2)]. The four-year rotation was tomato-safflower-corn-wheat(or oats+vetch)/beans, and the two-year rotation was tomato-wheat. Purple vetch (Vicia sativa L.) was grown as a green manure cover crop preceeding tomatoes in the low input and organic systems. Nitrogen was supplied as fertilizer in the conventional systems, as vetch green manure plus fertilizer in the low input system and as vetch green manure plus turkey manure in the organic system. Tomato cv. Brigade was direct-seeded in the conventional systems and transplanted to the field in the low input and organic systems. In both years the winter cover crop was composed of a mixture of vetch and volunteer oats with N contents of 2.2% in 1994 and 2.7% (low input) or 1.8% (organic) in 1995. In 1994 yields were higher in conventionally grown tomatoes because a virus in the nursery infected the transplants used in the low input and organic systems. In 1995 tomatoes grown with the low input and conv-4 systems had similar yields, which were higher than those of tomatoes grown with the conv-2 and organic systems. N uptake by the crop was greater than 200 kg N ha−1 for high yield (> 75 t ha−1) and uptake rates of 3 to 6 kg N ha−1 day−1 during the period of maximum uptake were observed. The lower yield with the organic system in 1995 was caused by a N deficiency. The main effect of the N deficiency was a reduced leaf area index and not a reduction of net assimilation rate (NAR) or radiation use efficiency (RUE). Nitrogen deficiency was related to low concentration of inorganic N in the soil and slow release of N from the cover crop + manure. A high proportion of N from the green manure but only a low proportion of N from the manure was mineralized during the crop season. In the conventional systems, the estimated mineralized N from the soil organic matter during the crop season was around 85 kg ha−1. A hyperbolic relationship between N content and total dry weight of aboveground biomass was observed in procesing tomatoes with adequate N nutrition. Lower yields with the conv-2 than with the conv-4 system were due to higher incidence of diseases in the two year rotation which reduced the NAR and the RUE. Residual N in the soil in Oct. (two months after the incorporation of crop residues) ranged between 90 and 170 kg N ha−1 in the 0–90 cm profile.