Effect of Mulch Surface Color on Root-knot of Tomato Grown in Simulated Planting Beds


  • B. A. Fortnum
  • M. J. Kasperbauer
  • D. R. Decoteau


host-parasite relationship, light quality, meloidogyne incognita, nematode, photomorphogenesis, plastic mulch, polyethylene, root-knot, tomato


The effect of different-colored polyethylene mulches on quantity and spectra of reflected light, plant morphology, and root-knot disease was studied in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum) grown in simulated planting beds. Tomato plants were inoculated with Meloidogyne incognita at initial populations (Pi) of 0, 1,000, 10,000, or 50,000 eggs/plant, and grown in a greenhouse for 50 days over white, red, or black mulch. Soil temperature was kept constant among the mulch treatments by placing an insulation barrier between the colored mulch and the soil surface. Soil temperature varied less than 0.5 ºC between soil chambers at solar noon. Tomatoes grown over white mulch received more reflected photosynthetic light and had greater shoot weights (27%), root weights (32%), and leaf area (20%) than plants grown over black mulch. Plants grown over red mulch received a higher far-red-to-red ratio in the reflected light. Mulch color altered the plant's response to root-knot nematode infection by changing the distribution of mass in axillary shoots. At high Pi, axillary leaf area and leaf weight were greater in tomato grown over white mulch than when grown over red mulch. The root-gall index was lower for plants grown over white mulch than similar plants grown over red mulch.