The Effect of Mulching on Soil Moisture Retention and Yield of Lettuce (Lactuca Sativa L.)

Abstract An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of different mulching materials on soil moisture retention and yield of lettuce at the greenhouse located at Luyengo campus of the University of Eswatini during the months of January and February, 2019. The treatments consisted of grass mulch (GM), Plastic mulch (PM), leaf debris mulch (LM), and no mulch (NM) which was used as a control. Each of the treatments had four replications. The organic mulch was applied at a thickness of 10 cm, and the plots for experiments were randomly selected. Each plant received 600 cm3 of water every 3 days using a homemade drip irrigation system (equivalent to 6 mm per irrigation circle). Data on soil moisture content was collected using the gravimetric method every 3 days (before irrigation).The growth parameters of the lettuce plants that were collected weekly were plant height, leaf number and leaf area. Both wet weight and dry weight yield were determined for each plot at the end of the experiment (six weeks after planting). Data collected was coded and entered into SPSS computer software. Data analysis was conducted using the analysis of variance (ANOVA) and the least significance difference (LSD) test to determine if means were significantly different. The results showed that GM treatment had high mean moisture retention at 9.3%. It was followed by PM and LM at 8.9%. The lowest moisture retention was realized from the control (No mulching) at 7.9%.The differences in mean moisture retention was significant between NM and NM (p<0.05). The same pattern was observed for the growth parameters, where GN had highest values and the control had the lowest values. The wet mass yield was highest for GM, at 164.7 g. The yield from LM was 149.3 g. It was followed by PM at 141.3 g. The lowest yield was obtained from the control at 108 g. The difference in mean yields for GM and NM were significant (p<0.05). They were not significantly different for all the other treatments (p>0.050. It was concluded from the experiment that grass mulching resulted in improved moisture retention and high yields.

Keywords—Drippers, irrigation, moisture, mulching, yield.

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The Effect of Mulching on Soil Moisture Retention and Yield of Lettuce (Lactuca Sativa L.)

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