Effect of Organic and Inorganic Mulching Materials on Soil Moisture Retention, Growth, and Yield of Two Tomato Varieties in Bungoma, Western Kenya
Keywords:Mulching, tomato varieties, soil moisture content, root microclimate
Mulching materials promote plant growth and yield by preserving soil moisture due to erratic rainfall patterns and distribution. These materials also act as a barrier to the action of rainfall that causes soil compaction and erosion. Therefore, this study was conducted to determine the effect of mulching materials on the retention of soil moisture, growth, and yield of two varieties of tomatoes. The experimental site was Mabanga Agricultural Training Centre in Bungoma, Western Kenya, for two seasons 2015 and 2016. The field experiment was laid out in a Randomized Complete Block Design (RCBD), in a split-plot arrangement replicated four times. Two tomato varieties, namely Cal J (determinate) and Tylka F1 (semi-determinate) were grown on seed beds mulched with different mulching materials. These materials were black polyethylene film, transparent polyethylene film, sugarcane trash, and no-mulch (bare soil). Data collected on growth variables were subjected to ANOVA using GenStat, to determine the effect of mulching on the performance of tomatoes. Significant means were separated using Fischer’s protected LSD at α = 0.05. In season one, significantly high soil moisture content was conserved from 7.0% under no-mulch to 22.1% under black polyethylene mulch. Similarly, in season two, more soil moisture was retained from 8.4% to 19.3% under white polythene mulch, but this was not significantly different from the black polythene mulch at 18.6%. There was no significant difference between varieties and mulches for shoot weight and total plant weight for both seasons. Significant difference among mulches in fruit yield was observed in season two. Black and white polyethylene mulch retained highest soil moisture content, and they are recommended for adoption in tomato growing.
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