The aim of this experiment was to evaluate the effect of fertilizing processing tomato by coupling the green manuring of fall-winter cover crops with fertigation in spring-summer. In a two-year experiment, seven fertilization treatments were compared: green manuring of pure barley (B100) and pure vetch (V100) sown at 100% of their ordinary seeding rates, green manuring of a barley-vetch mixture at a ratio of 75:25 of their own seed rates (B75V25), fertigation with drip irrigation at a rate of 200 kg ha−1
of nitrogen (N) (Fert_N200), fertigation combined with B100 and B75V25 at a N rate complementary to 200 kg N ha−1
(B100 + Fert and B75V25 + Fert, respectively), and an unfertilized control (N0) with no cover crops for green manuring prior to tomato transplanting or fertigation. The Fert_N200 treatment resulted in maximum tomato N uptake, growth and yield, but caused high N leaching, especially during the no-cover fall-winter period, as was also the case for N0. The V100 treatment promoted quite good tomato N status and yield, but did not reduce N leaching. The B100 and B75V25 treatments reduced N leaching but decreased tomato N uptake, growth and yield. The B100 + Fert and B75V25 + Fert treatments reduced N leaching, likely increased soil N stock, and facilitated optimal tomato N nutrition and maximum yields. Combining fertigation with green manuring of cover crops composed of pure grass or grass-legume mixtures appears to be a very effective and environmentally sound practice for fertilizing high N-demanding spring-summer crops like processing tomato.
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