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

All Vegetables Stories >All Fruits Stories >All Nuts Stories >All Citrus Stories >

The Latest

CitrusHarness The Marketing Power Of Video
September 1, 2014
Multimedia platform is an effective and inexpensive marketing tool for you to attract new customers and keep existing ones loyal to your brand. Read More
Citrus Achievement AwardDespite Industry Challenges, Florida Citrus Leader Has …
September 1, 2014
2014 Florida Grower Citrus Achievement Award winner Mike Sparks feels confident in crop sector's ability to regain strength. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoFood Safety Modernization Act Is On The Plate
September 1, 2014
Florida Ag Expo agenda to serve up important features of looming regulations. Read More
CEU SeriesCEU Series: Put Weeds Out To Pasture
September 1, 2014
No matter where they are, plants out of place can be problematic. Read More
TomatoesProduction Reaches An All-Time High For Processing Toma…
August 29, 2014
A record high is predicted for the 2014 processing tomato crop. Read More
CitrusFlorida Department Of Citrus Knocks NPR Piece Over Juic…
August 28, 2014
Agency goes to bat for the industry regarding statement slighting OJ's health benefits. Read More
Disease ControlLate Blight Update Reveals Heightened Activity
August 28, 2014
While several states in the Northeast have confirmed the presence of late blight, the disease has not been reported in North Dakota or Minnesota. Read More
CitrusFlorida Energy Firm Charged Up About Citrus Biomass Pot…
August 28, 2014
Machine called a game-changer when it comes to a cost-effective, efficient way for tree removal and re-purposing. Read More
EquipmentNew Tractors Improve Maneuverability And Operator Contr…
August 28, 2014
The Magnum Rowtrac tractors from Case IH meet growers’ cropping needs through a wide variety of row spacing and belt options.   Read More
NutsCalifornia County Passes Ordinance To Protect Walnut Gr…
August 27, 2014
Verification of ownership needed to complete sales of valuable nuts. Read More
NutsAlmond Growers Hit By Russian Import Limits
August 27, 2014
Growers reflect on changes to export market in light of produce ban. Read More
Farm ManagementLeadership And Management Expert To Speak At California…
August 27, 2014
Daniel Goleman will make presentation at California State University-Fresno. Read More
CitrusNational Scientific Summit On Herbicide Resistant Weeds…
August 27, 2014
Topics to be covered include the economics of proactively managing herbicide resistance, education and outreach efforts, and incentives and regulatory initiatives. Read More
FruitsFlorida Organic Group Dedicated To Serving Growers, Com…
August 27, 2014
Education and development programs are plentiful for interested producers. Read More
VegetablesExperimental Herbicide Technology Blasts Weeds In Rows
August 27, 2014
The technology uses an air compressor to spray corncob grit on both sides of a crop, killing young weeds. Read More
Disease ControlFungal Disease Outbreak Hits Pacific Northwest Vegetabl…
August 27, 2014
An outbreak of blackleg, light leaf spot, and white leaf spot can be significant problems in several vegetable crops.   Read More
CitrusClean Water Conundrum: Ditch The Rule Or Ditch The Myth…
August 26, 2014
Regulation inundation causing a rising tide of confusion for farmers. Read More
BerriesMichigan State University Extension Offers Tips To Prev…
August 26, 2014
Humidity, rainy periods conducive to disease development. Read More