University of Arkansas, Fayetteville Division of Agriculture
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Keywords

weed management, high-tunnel tomato, partial budgeting analysis, specialty crops, economic analysis, cost-benefit sensitivity analysis

Abstract

Cost-effective weed suppression is an important consideration for tomato growers. Growers often choose methods which minimize hand labor, as hand weeding can be prohibitively expensive. This project determined economic viability of high tunnel tomatoes treated with several methods of weed control, both organic and chemical. These methods included: 2-week hand weeding, 1-week hand weeding, preemergent herbicide application (plots sprayed with herbicide prior to weed emergence), straw mulch (plots bedded with straw), landscape fabric (plots covered in fabric), and untreated weedy control plots. These six treatments were applied to randomized blocks in a high tunnel. Weeding, planting, and harvesting were all timed to determine time costs of weed management strategy implementation. After harvest, marketable and cull yield were measured. Means separation analysis using Tukey’s test was used to compare data, indicating differences in the management strategies. The data showed that the preemergent herbicide-treated plots tended to be similar to the organic treatments in terms of yield, weed coverage, and implementation time, but not preparation time. Landscape fabric was especially suppressive of weeds. 1-week and 2-week hand weeded plots had similar values for yield, weed coverage, and implementation time. As expected, 1-week and 2-week hand weeding took more weeding time overall than the other treatments. These results are relevant to growers in that the results can be used to adjust their weed management practices based on their available material and labor resources, and yield expectations.

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