Silicon soil amendments for enhancing disease resistance while improving overall crop health for cucurbits in organic farming systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2006: $180,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Amanda Gevens
University of Florida

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: sorghum (milo)
  • Vegetables: cucurbits


  • Crop Production: cover crops, organic fertilizers, tissue analysis
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: cultural control, integrated pest management, prevention
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil chemistry
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, partnerships

    Proposal abstract:

    Organic growers in the southeast are challenged to produce quality vegetables because environmental conditions are very conducive for the development of plant diseases. Although cultural techniques are often integrated with other management tools, combining innovative biocontrol with proper crop fertility and genotype selection, plant disease can still dramatically reduce vegetable quality. As a consequence, other strategies must be developed for the control of plant pathogens and the diseases that they cause. One component of such an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) system is the potential use of silicon as a tool for disease control. Although silicon is not considered an essential element for plants, it has enhanced the growth and the development of several monocots and dicots species, especially under poor soil/nutrient conditions. Silicon also has provided effective control of both soilborne and foliar fungal diseases in cucumber, rice, sugarcane, watermelon, wheat, and several other plant species. The mechanism of resistance conferred by silicon in cucurbits is believed to be the result of the production of flavonoid phytoalexins. No projects have looked at amending the soil with naturally mined minerals to enhance disease resistance in the field. The use of silicon as a soil amendment offers a potentially sustainable method of addressing plant disease control in cucurbits. Additionally, amending soil with silicon, a benign, relatively immobile natural mineral may provide a long lasting, economical alternative to disease control while improving soil health, crop quality while promoting good environmental stewardship

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Survey of the natural organic farm ecosystems for diseases infecting cucurbits amended without and with silicon.

    Determine the fate of silicon as a soil amendment in the agricultural system without and with cover crops.

    Quantitatively assess the role of silicon in suppressing diseases of cucumber in greenhouse evaluations.

    Determine the potential economic impact of the new practice through partial budgeting.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.