Alternative Control of Soil Diseases in Vegetable Production
Development of non-chemical controls for soilborne pathogens are needed in the search for sustainable agricultural practices. Methods for growing a number of fresh market vegetables typically includes the practice of soil fumigation. This practice is required to control a number of soilborne plant diseases.
Recent research suggests that the application of organic wastes may reduce the incidence of several fungal and microbial diseases on vegetable crops. The application of dried or composted organic wastes (cabbage, grass clippings, food waste, etc.) has been suggested as an alternative method for currently used fumigation technology. For example, cabbage leaves have been implicated in the release of toxic chemicals upon decomposition. These compounds are believed to be released for a short time in minute amounts but may be highly effective in reducing soil-borne disease pathogens. If a practical application could be developed to utilize these compounds, producers would have a sustainable on-farm method of disease control.
Another promising control measure which does not require chemical fumigation is solarization. Typically, soil is solarized by placing a transparent plastic cover over the crop area during periods of greatest solar radiation. The trapped heat can potentially reach temperatures high enough to kill soil-borne disease agents.
1.) Determine the efficacy of dried cabbage residue and grass clippings as a mulch for the control of soilborne pathogens.
2.) Determine the efficacy of soil solarization for the control of soil-borne pathogens.
Field plots (4 ft. x 150 ft.) will be prepared and dried cabbage residue and grass clippings will be spread over them. Other field plots of the same dimensions will be covered with clear plastic film. Strawberries followed by watermelons will be planted in the plots which will be monitored for pest and insect damage.
Two field days will be held during the course of this study. The first will be in late summer and will focus on the use of solarization and organic amendments to prepare areas for annual strawberry production. The second field day will be held at the time of strawberry harvest. The focus of the second field day will be to discuss the success or failure of solarization and organic amendments in strawberry production.