Anna Azimi, Plant Sciences, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, Amelie CM Gaudin, One Shields Ave University of California, University of California-Davis, Davis, CA, Margaret Lloyd, UC-ANR, Woodland, CA and Scott Park, Park Farming, Meridian, CA
Building long-term soil health is intrinsic to increasing agricultural resource use efficiency and crop resilience in sustainable tomato production. Understanding the key mechanisms for soil management can promote the conservation of freshwater resources and maintain the economic viability of the tomato industry in a time of unprecedented drought in California. We seek to specify how management decisions such as long-term compost application, cover crops and diverse crop rotation have altered soil function and its impact on yield and fruit quality when water application is limited. This project compared a deficit irrigation schedule which delays onset combined with early cutoff of water application by 15 days to a regular irrigation schedule in an organic processing tomato field. We will present results on the co-benefits of capitalizing on greater soil health to improve water use efficiency, retain nutrients and decrease disease and pest pressure without limiting tomato yield, quality and nutritional value. This holistic approach will help identify and quantify effective management decisions that both reduce production costs and conserve natural resources.