Brassicaceous Cover Crops to Reduce Root Knot Nematode and Improve Soil Quality in High Tunnel Tomato

  • Pfeufer, Emily (PI)
  • Saha, Shubin (CoI)

Grants and Contracts Details


Root knot nematodes (Meloidogyne spp.; "RKN") are some of the most damaging soilborne pathogens as a result of their wide host range and severe effect on yields. These pathogens compound as a production problem when they are present in high tunnel soils, which are intensively cropped, often in tomato, in order to recoup the costs of constructing the structure. Intensive high tunnel cropping may also impact a number of soil quality measures, including organic matter, salinity, and water holding capacity. Most high tunnel growers in Kentucky do not use cover crops in their structures, even though these can improve soil characteristics and serve as non-hosts to soilborne pathogens. Brassicaceous cover crop plants, including arugula (Eruca sativa) and high-glucosinolate content mustards (Brassica juncea), are potential non-chemical tools to reduce root knot nematode populations in high tunnel soils, in terms of serving as trap crops for nematodes as well as producing powerful biofumigant compounds when chopped and tilled into soils. To determine the effects of brassicaceous cover crops on RKN root colonization, tomato yield, and soil health measures, we propose to test arugula, mustard, and combinations of these plants as cover crops in two Kentucky high tunnels with established RKN pressure over the course of two full years. Important data to be collected includes soil health parameters, such as pH, salinity, organic matter, water holding capacity, and estimates of juvenile nematode populations. In addition, data will be collected on plant height, tomato yields, and degree of root knotting.
Effective start/end date3/15/167/31/16


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