Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Reduce Water, Fertilizer, and Fumigant Inputs by Changing Planting Bed

If you live in a more rural area, you may notice farmer's fields ribboned with rows of raised beds covered in plastic for growing tomatoes, peppers, cabbage and more. Typically, the beds are 36 inches wide and 6-8 inches tall and the input needs, such as water, fertilization, and and pre-planting soil pesticides, are added either before the plastic is laid, or added through a porous plastic hose laid under the plastic.  Plants are grown by punching a small hole in the plastic and either seedlings or seeds are planted in the small hole.  The plastic helps to regulate the moisture and temperature of the soil and will reduce the weed pressure on the crop.

Field preparation by Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo,

Recently, Dr. Sanjay Shukla, a researcher from the University of Florida, experimented with altering the width and height of the beds to evaluate if the change in shape would change the input needs of the crops.  He found out that by raising the height of the bed to 10-12 inches tall and reducing the width to 18-24 inches produced the same yield as the conventional beds, but needed less water, fertilizer, and fumigants.  It also reduces the amount of plastic needed in production, an important factor for waste reduction since the plastic is thrown out after it is unusable (1-2 crops/seasons).  So, how much money does he say this will this save growers?  Per acre: $100-300.  One eggplant grower in Florida has already switched over and says it saves him about $500/acre in equipment, fertilizer, and fumigation.

Tomato on conventional raised, plastic-mulched beds by Gerald Holmes, California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo,

Source Article: Cutting cost, saving water and helping the environment by changing one simple thing