Establishment of Orchards with Black Polyethylene Film Mulching: Effect on Nematode and Fungal Pathogens, Water Conservation, and Tree Growth


  • R. A. Duncan
  • J. J. Stapleton
  • M. V. McKenry


Placement of a 3-m-wide, black, polyethylene film mulch down rows of peach (Prunus persica 'Red Haven' on 'Lovell' rootstock) and almond (Prunus dulcis 'Nonpareil' on 'Lovell') trees in the San Joaquin Valley of California resulted in irrigation water conservation of 75%, higher soil temperature in the surface 30 cm, a tendency toward greater root mass, elimination of weeds, and a greater abundance of Meloidogyne incognita second-stage juveniles in soil but reduced root galling when compared to the nonmulched control. Population levels of Pratylenchus hexincisus, a nematode found within tree roots, were reduced by mulching, as were those of Tylenchulus semipenetrans, which survived on old grape roots remaining from a previously planted vineyard, and Paratrichodorus minor, which probably fed on roots of various weed species growing in the nonmulched soil. Populations of Pythium ultimum were not significantly changed, probably also due to the biological refuge of the old grape roots and moderate soil heating level. Trunk diameters of peach trees were increased by mulching, but those of almond trees were reduced by the treatment. Leaf petiole analysis indicated that concentrations of mineral nutrients were inconsistent, except for a significant increase in Ca in both tree species. Key words: almond, irrigation management, Mdoidogyne incognita, mulching, nematode, peach, Paratrichodorus minor, Paratylenchus hamatus, Pratylenchus hexincisus, Prunus dulcis, Prunus persica, Pythium ultimum, soil heating, solarization, Tylenchulus semipenetrans.