Utility of Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation and Organic Herbicides for Weed and Disease Management in Organic Solanaceous Vegetable Systems

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2019: $293,470.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2022
Grant Recipient: Clemson University
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Matthew Cutulle
Clemson University, CREC


  • Vegetables: peppers, tomatoes


  • Pest Management: integrated pest management

    Proposal abstract:

    Controlling weeds in organic vegetable production is difficult. Certain varieties of vegetables have been bred for resistance to key pathogens and insects, yet no type of inherent resistance mechanisms exists in crops that will directly resist weed infestation. Additionally, no selective herbicides are registered for use in organic vegetable production. Anaerobic soil disinfestation has been shown to suppress certain weed species and soil-bourne pathogens. Furthermore, preliminary data taken from the USDA-ARS United States Vegetable Laboratory in Charleston, S.C., by Dr. Cutulle and Dr. Wechter indicate that carbon source influences weed suppression. ASD works by driving the soil into an anaerobic state for several weeks, thus reducing or eliminating the aerobic microorganisms. Most plant pathogenic microorganisms are aerobic. ASD is facilitated by amending the soil with a high carbon source, followed by sealing the soil in an impermeable plastic mulch and driving the soil into an anaerobic state by saturating the soil under the mulch with water. We propose evaluating several carbon sources that have allelopathic properties, and incorporate them into an ASD program. Additionally, a new liquid formulation of corn gluten meal has been developed in the past year. Proteins in corn gluten meal inhibit the germination of grasses and small seeded broadleaf weeds. We will test this product as both an ASD carbon source, as well as its effect on weed suppression. ASD has been shown to be an effective method for reducing or eliminating several soilborne phytopathogens. Dr. Wechter is currently working on the remediation of the devastating soil pathogen Ralstonia solanacearum that causes bacterial wilt of tomato and pepper. This pathogen is the most crop limiting pathogen of tomato in southern U.S. Preliminary work by Dr. Wechter has indicated that ASD is capable of greatly reducing and even eliminating the R. solanacearum in the field. Also, we will evaluate summer cover crops as carbon sources as an ASD scenario.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • To determine the best allelopathic-organic herbicide amendment for control of annual grasses, broadleaf weeds, and sedge control in an ASD environment. Specifically the allelopathic material treatments will include mustard meal, sweet potato skins, dry corn gluten meal, liquid corn gluten meal, and no amendment.
    • To determine if specific carbon source and allelopathic treatment combinations affect weed suppression and disease incidence in native coastal soil in the greenhouse. Specifically we will evaluate two carbon sources: Rice Bran and chicken manure plus molasses, with the best allelopathic amendments from Objective 1 in an ASD promoted environment.
    • To evaluate the best options from the greenhouse trials and evaluate them in a field trial in the fall of year 1 and year 2 in pepper, tomato and eggplant.
    • To determine the best summer cover crop residue for use as a carbon source in an ASD scenario in the field. Three cover crops will be evaluated: soybean, sunn hemp, and sorghum sudan grass.
    • To determine if the best options compare to standard practices in commercial tomato and pepper farm settings in coastal South Carolina.
    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.