Weeds that emerge between rows in fresh market tomatoes after the critical period of competition are not suppressed by the crop and can produce large quantities of seed. A living mulch planted between rows might limit weed seed production. Buckwheat was seeded between tomato rows after the critical period in 2007 and 2008 in field studies near Lafayette, IN. Weeds were allowed to emerge after the critical period (CP), controlled throughout the growing season (no seed threshold [NST]), or mowed to limit seed production (MOW). Buckwheat and MOW plots were mowed twice after the critical period in 2007 and once in 2008. Seed banks were sampled after the critical period and in the following spring. Tomato yields were not reduced by growing buckwheat between rows. Seed bank densities for common purslane and carpetweed, which escaped mowing due to their prostrate habits, increased in all treatments. Germinable seed bank densities were 306 seeds m−2 or less in the NST and buckwheat treatments but 755 seeds m−2 or more in the CP treatments for species with erect habits in both years. Seed bank densities were lower in the MOW treatment than in the CP treatments in 2007 but not in 2008. In a parallel experiment conducted in adjacent plots, buckwheat was seeded at five rates (0, 56, 112, 168, and 224 kg seed ha−1). Plots were mowed and emergent weeds sampled as described for the intercrop experiment. Weed densities before mowing decreased linearly with buckwheat seed rate. After mowing, no relationship was detected between seed rate and weed densities. This study supports the hypothesis that a living mulch planted after the critical period can be used to limit seed bank growth without reducing tomato yields, but additional research is needed to better understand the effect of mowing on living mulch growth and weed suppression.
Nomenclature: Carpetweed, Mollugo verticillata L. MOLVE; common purslane, Portulaca oleracea L. POROL; buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum Moench; tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum L