Effects of Organic and Inorganic Mulching on Weeds, Diseases, Growth and Yield of Tomato (Solanum Lycopersicum L) in Bungoma County, Kenya.
Musito, James Wafula
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Tomato (Solanum lycopersicon) is a major commercial vegetable for small holder farmers in Kenya. Optimizing tomato production provides an opportunity to increase household incomes, improve standards of living and creating employment opportunities for small holder farmers in the tomato growing counties. Despite the favorable climatic conditions, tomato yields in tomato producing Counties remain far below the potential yields range in open field production of 40 to 100 tons per hectare. Low tomato yield is caused by poor soil moisture and fertility management and prevalence of pests and diseases. This study was carried out to evaluate the effects of organic and inorganic mulching on weeds infestations, disease incidences, physiological disorders, growth and yield of tomato varieties. The field experiment was laid out in a Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD) in split-plot arrangement replicated three times. Two tomato varieties i.e. Cal J (Determinate) and Tylka F1 (Semi indeterminate) were the main plot treatment while the sub plot treatments were composed of black polyethylene film mulch (standard management practice), white polyethylene film mulch (standard management practice) ,sugarcane Trash at 3kg per meter square and No mulch. Data was collected on plant height, shoot weight, stem thickness, number of branches, number of trusses, number of open flowers , fruit sizes(small, medium and large), Fruit weight (marketable and non-marketable), Soil moisture content, Bacterial wilt and blossom end rot incidence and severity levels and weeds dry weight. The data was subjected to the analysis of variance using SAS software at P≤0.05 and mean separation where significant differences were observed was done using Fischer’s Protected LSD. The mulching treatments showed significant influence on the soil moisture content for both seasons with the highest recorded under the black polythene mulch with a maximum of 22.1% recorded at 8 weeks after transplanting and 18.9% at 6 weeks after transplanting during the first and second seasons respectively. The lowest moisture content was recorded in plots that were not mulched. Mulching with organic and inorganic materials significantly influenced the growth and yield parameters for both seasons in the two tomato varieties. White polyethylene mulch contributed to the highest number of branches per plant (10) and number of flower clusters (30) in Cal-J variety. The tallest plants were recorded in the same treatment on Tylka variety at 143. 7 cm while the shortest plants were recorded in the control treatment of Cal J variety. The highest number of large fruits (27) was observed on the white polyethylene mulch of Cal-J variety which was not significantly different from Tylka F1 with the same mulching treatment with (25) fruits per plant during the first season. Tylka F1 under the white polyethylene mulch had the highest yield with 76.8 tonnes per hectare and Cal-J had 71.6 tonnes per hectare under the same mulch treatment recorded during the first season. The lowest tomato yield was observed where no mulch was applied in both seasons under both tomato varieties. The mulching treatments did not have significant influence on the incidences of bacterial wilt and blossom end rot in the two varieties for both seasons. The black polyethylene mulch had the highest weed suppression rate with the control showing the highest fresh and dry weed weight for both seasons. Results from this study shows that inorganic and organic mulch has the potential to increase growth and yield of tomato and suppress weeds growth.