Here Comes The Sun

Here Comes The Sun

Sunshine helps plants grow, and it can help rid soil of harmful organisms that hurt Florida’s crops, a University of Florida expert says. In a process called soil solarization, farmers prepare planting beds by covering them with clear plastic sheets for several weeks during the summer, trapping heat that destroys weeds, nematodes, and fungi. Popular in California and Israel, solarization is well-suited to Florida’s climate, though the practice is seldom used here, says Bob McSorley, a nematology professor with UF/IFAS.

A study published in the September 2009 issue of the International Journal of Pest Management showed solarization effectively prepared planting beds for snapdragons, in some cases as well as the soil fumigant methyl bromide.

“The big challenge is getting growers to adopt it,” says McSorley, an author of the study. “They never thought of doing without soil fumigants.”

Seeking Alternatives

Soil fumigants are chemicals sprayed or injected into soil to kill pests and pathogens before planting. The best known is methyl bromide, which is being phased out. Federal law now restricts methyl bromide use nationwide; in Florida’s it’s allowed for a handful of crops including eggplant, pepper, strawberry, tomato, cut flowers, and ornamentals. Growers and researchers want cost-effective alternatives.

Solarization has some advantages over fumigants, McSorley says. It’s inexpensive, and it’s environmentally friendly, though the sheeting requires disposal.

The downside is, solarization requires intense sun exposure, so it can only be used during summer to prepare beds and fields for fall-grown crops. And three to four months after solarization, harmful organisms start to return. “There are some limitations to it,” he adds. “If you want a spring crop, you have to use another method in the winter time.”

Testing Grounds

McSorley recommends interested growers try solarization on a small plot and see if it gives the results they need.
One farm that’s taken that first step is Sunshine State Carnations. Last year, the operation, which has locations in Palm City and Hobe Sound, took part in a USDA study. It was successful, and this year both locations are using solarization on half-acre plots, says USDA plant pathologist Dan Chellemi.

The study is meant to demonstrate that solarization is practical on a commercial scale, says Chellemi, who is based at the USDA research laboratory in Ft. Pierce. Overall, he says, solarization has “tremendous potential” for Florida vegetable and floriculture farms, especially when the method is used as part of an integrated pest management approach.

For more information, see “Solari-zation for Pest Management in Florida,” http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/IN824.

Leave a Reply

Featured Stories
UFR-2 Vernia citrus rootstock
Citrus Achievement AwardLessons Learned Via Citrus Variety Evaluation Never End
August 1, 2015
Orie Lee, the 2015 Citrus Achievement Award winner, discusses his decades-long involvement with Vernia. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoResearchers To Put 3 Major Crop Threats On Trial
August 1, 2015
Nematode, disease, and weed management on deck for the 10th annual Florida Ag Expo. Read More
woman smashing an alarm clock with a hammer
CitrusDon’t Become A Time Crunch Casualty
July 31, 2015
Finding the balance between work life and home life is easier said than done for GenNext Growers. Read More
PotatoesLate Blight Confirmed In Areas Of Idaho; Number Of Potato Psyllids Dips
July 31, 2015
The number of potato psyllids decline while additional fields are noted as having late blight. Read More
Apples & PearsReTain Now Registered For Double Application
July 31, 2015
ReTain plant growth regulator (PGR) has been registered by EPA with a new label use that allows pome fruit growers Read More
Crop ProtectionLettuce Disease Gives E. Coli A Boost
July 31, 2015
E. coli prefer cut, injured, and young lettuce leaves. Read More
Farm ManagementAn Excellent Industry Education [Opinion]
July 31, 2015
The end of one era, and the ushering in of another. Read More
Stone FruitThe Strong Staying Power Of The Redhaven Name In Peaches
July 31, 2015
People tend to be nostalgic about peach varieties, but the switch of varieties grown by a region happens for a Read More
Crop ProtectionResources For Knowing Your Soil
July 30, 2015
Getting to know your soil and learning other environmental and natural resources data can be downloaded and is available for use with many computer software platforms for general resource analysis and farm management. Read More
money
CitrusBankrupt Florida Farm To Yield Plenty Of Land, Equipment In Upcoming Auction
July 30, 2015
As many as seven different buyers could be part of this Chapter 11 proceeding. Read More
The Latest
UFR-2 Vernia citrus rootstock
Citrus Achievement AwardLessons Learned Via Citrus Variety Evaluation Never End
August 1, 2015
Orie Lee, the 2015 Citrus Achievement Award winner, discusses his decades-long involvement with Vernia. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoResearchers To Put 3 Major Crop Threats On Trial
August 1, 2015
Nematode, disease, and weed management on deck for the 10th annual Florida Ag Expo. Read More
woman smashing an alarm clock with a hammer
CitrusDon’t Become A Time Crunch Casualty
July 31, 2015
Finding the balance between work life and home life is easier said than done for GenNext Growers. Read More
PotatoesLate Blight Confirmed In Areas Of Idaho; Number Of Pota…
July 31, 2015
The number of potato psyllids decline while additional fields are noted as having late blight. Read More
Apples & PearsReTain Now Registered For Double Application
July 31, 2015
ReTain plant growth regulator (PGR) has been registered by EPA with a new label use that allows pome fruit growers Read More
Crop ProtectionLettuce Disease Gives E. Coli A Boost
July 31, 2015
E. coli prefer cut, injured, and young lettuce leaves. Read More
Farm ManagementAn Excellent Industry Education [Opinion]
July 31, 2015
The end of one era, and the ushering in of another. Read More
Stone FruitThe Strong Staying Power Of The Redhaven Name In Peache…
July 31, 2015
People tend to be nostalgic about peach varieties, but the switch of varieties grown by a region happens for a Read More
Crop ProtectionResources For Knowing Your Soil
July 30, 2015
Getting to know your soil and learning other environmental and natural resources data can be downloaded and is available for use with many computer software platforms for general resource analysis and farm management. Read More
money
CitrusBankrupt Florida Farm To Yield Plenty Of Land, Equipmen…
July 30, 2015
As many as seven different buyers could be part of this Chapter 11 proceeding. Read More
Sanjay Shukla
ProductionGeometrically Speaking, Thinking Smaller Might Produce …
July 30, 2015
University of Florida scientist develops compact planting bed formula that cuts water, fertilizer, and pesticide use in half. Read More
GrapesDrought’s Impact On California Winegrapes
July 30, 2015
The impact is minimal this year, but the future is uncertain if the drought continues. Read More
Apples & PearsEPA Approves New 1-MCP Technology
July 30, 2015
EPA approved Fysium, a new 1-MCP product from Pace International LLC. Considered new technology, this product is produced on-site by Read More
FruitsTodd Snyder Named President And CEO Of C&O Nursery
July 30, 2015
Todd Snyder, the third generation of Snyders to run C&O Nursery, was recently named president and CEO of the family Read More
Crop ProtectionNew Fungicide Targets Key Diseases
July 30, 2015
This disease control tool hits two different parts of the fungal life cycle. Read More
CitrusWestern Growers Praises Introduction Of California Emer…
July 30, 2015
Legislation contains short- and long-term provisions to deal with the historic drought. Read More
Farm ManagementFour Great Pricing Tips From U-Pick Experts
July 30, 2015
Although each of the growers I talked to has his or her own take on a pricing structure, they all Read More
BerriesUC-Davis Responds To California Auditor’s Recomme…
July 30, 2015
Following a six-month review of the University of California (UC)-Davis Strawberry breeding program, the California state auditor’s office has released Read More