For growers like us, who have used high tunnels, low tunnels, and greenhouses to extend the growing season to year-round production, there are two major problems; Chickweed and Sclerotinia. Chickweed is a cold-hardy annual with fast growth, prolific seed production, and long seed life. When we plant winter greens, carrots, beets, herbs, or anything else, chickweed always threatens to overtake the crop. Chickweed is responsible for at least 80% of the weeding we do on our farm from October to April, and we're not alone. Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a plant pathogenic fungus which causes a disease called white mold if conditions are conducive. On our farm, and many other farms in the midwest, this is the single most difficult and destructive disease problem we deal with; this past winter, we lost as much as 60% of some lettuce beds to this fungus. It thrives in the cool, moist greenhouses from October to April. We propose to use a soil steamer, like the ones produced by Sioux Steamer company, to eradicate these two pests from our beds. This solution would provide a pesticide-and-herbicide-free, long-term sustainable solution to the two worst problems winter growers face.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Evaluate the use of a soil steaming system for reducing or eradicating Chickweed and Sclerotinia in cool weather growing beds.
- Document the efficacy of this treatment through photographs and written observations of beds with and without treatment.
- Establish base for the cost per square foot of treatment, and compare that to the losses incurred from these problems in untreated scenarios.
- Establish best practices for reducing/eliminating these two pests from our winter growing spaces.
- Share results through on-farm field days, tours, presentations at conferences, communication with other growers on social media, and youtube videos.