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Investigation of TOM-CAST, Staking, and Mulch for Managing Tomato Diseases 1997

Project Leaders: Margaret Tuttle McGrath and Dale Moyer

Objectives:

1. Compare TOM-CAST to a weekly fungicide program and test different thresholds (disease severity values).

2. Determine the relative merits of using staking, plastic, and fungicides for foliar diseases and for Phytophthora fruit rot.

Results:

Two versions of TOMCAST, a weather-based disease forecasting system, were compared to a weekly spray program for managing early blight in fresh-market tomatoes. TOM-CAST 15 DSV (disease severity values), with 7 sprays, was as effective as the weekly spray program, with 12 sprays, for controlling both powdery mildew and early blight. The latter disease was much more severe with the TOM-CAST 25 DSV (5 sprays) than with the weekly program. In a second experiment, tomatoes grown on raised beds with black plastic mulch and staked to keep the plants upright produced significantly more marketable fruit than tomatoes on bare ground. The value of the yield gain achieved with mulch and staking greatly exceeded the costs of mulch, drip irrigation, and stakes.