Soil mulching with legumes and grasses is an agricultural practice which promotes benefits to production systems. An experiment was carried out at Seropédica, Rio de Janeiro State, to evaluate the effects of mulch types on weed control and agronomic performance of organically grown lettuce. A randomized blocks design was adopted, with four replications and eight plants in the useful area of each plot. The treatments were: sugar cane (Saccharum sp.) bagasse, bamboo (Bambuza sp.), Cameroon grass (Penisetum purpureum), sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea), mountain immortelle (Erythrina poeppigiana), gliricidia (Gliricidia sepium), pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan), velvet bean (Mucuna pruriens) and control (no mulching). In situ decomposition and nitrogen release rates were estimated for each mulch. Two consecutive cycles of lettuce (cv. Regina) were conducted in the same area to compare residual effects of mulching. There were greater accumulations of N in the legumes residues (with a maximum of 1.010 kg ha-1, at velvet bean). Legumes residues showed lower contents of remaining dry matter and N than grasses, at the end of the first cultivation cycle of lettuce (35 days after transplanting). Weed populations did not differ in relation to the mulch source, varying from 31 to 58 plants m-2. The reduction of weed infestation reached 83% as compared to the control treatment. In both crop cycles, lettuce shoot dry matter (315.8 to 366.0, and 202.9 to 225.0 g plant-1, respectively at the first and the second cultivation cycles), diameter (30.8 to 31.7, and 25.5 to 28.5 cm) and N content (32.3 to 38.8, and 28.0 to 30.3 g kg-1) were greater in the treatments using legume mulches.
Lactuca sativa; soil cover; weeds control; grasses; legumes; nitrogen