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Biological Impact of Divergent Land Management Practices on Tomato Crop Health

June 2012 , Volume 102 , Number  6
Pages  597 - 608

Dan O. Chellemi, Tiehang Wu, Jim H. Graham, and Greg Church

First author: U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Horticulture Research Laboratory, Fort Pierce, FL 34945; second author: Georgia Southern University, Statesboro 30460; third author: University of Florida, Citrus Research and Education Center, Lake Alfred 33850; and fourth author: Texas AgriLife Extention Service–Collin County, Texas A&M University.

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Accepted for publication 3 February 2012.

Development of sustainable food systems is contingent upon the adoption of land management practices that can mitigate damage from soilborne pests. Five diverse land management practices were studied for their impacts on Fusarium wilt (Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. lycopersici), galling of roots by Meloidogyne spp. and marketable yield of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) and to identify associations between the severity of pest damage and the corresponding soil microbial community structure. The incidence of Fusarium wilt was >14% when tomato was cultivated following 3 to 4 years of an undisturbed weed fallow or continuous tillage disk fallow rotation and was >4% after 3 to 4 years of bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) rotation or organic production practices that included soil amendments and cover crops. The incidence of Fusarium wilt under conventional tomato production with soil fumigation varied from 2% in 2003 to 15% in 2004. Repeated tomato cultivation increased Fusarium wilt by 20% or more except when tomato was grown using organic practices, where disease remained less than 3%. The percent of tomato roots with galls from Meloidogyne spp. ranged from 18 to 82% in soil previously subjected to a weed fallow rotation and 7 to 15% in soil managed previously as a bahiagrass pasture. Repeated tomato cultivation increased the severity of root galling in plots previously subjected to a conventional or disk fallow rotation but not in plots managed using organic practices, where the percentage of tomato roots with galls remained below 1%. Marketable yield of tomato exceeded 35 Mg ha–1 following all land management strategies except the strip-tillage/bahiagrass program. Marketable yield declined by 11, 14, and 19% when tomato was grown in consecutive years following a bahiagrass, weed fallow, and disk rotation. The composition of fungal internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) and bacterial 16S rDNA amplicons isolated from soil fungal and bacterial communities corresponded with observed differences in the incidence of Fusarium wilt and severity of root galling from Meloidogyne spp. and provided evidence of an association between the effect of land management practices on soil microbial community structure, severity of root galling from Meloidogyne spp., and the incidence of Fusarium wilt.

Additional keywords: disease suppressive soil, organic agriculture, soil fumigants, soil microbial diversity, sustainable pest management.

This article is in the public domain and not copyrightable. It may be freely reprinted with customary crediting of the source. The American Phytopathological Society, 2012.