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
Crop ProtectionAt Paramount Farming, Mating Disruption Pays Off
February 10, 2015
To say Brad Higbee is an expert in mating disruption, the use of pheromones to confuse target pests and reduce Read More
Crop ProtectionGrower Experienced In Biocontrols Says: Be Patient
February 4, 2015
The use of biocontrols in all aspects of agriculture is becoming more widespread. But incorporating biocontrols in a vegetable farming Read More
Sweet CornAbbott & Cobb Sweet On New Sweet Corn Technology
March 3, 2015
SuperSeedWare gene type to aid varieties through marker-assisted selection. Read More
FruitsWest Coast Ports To Open With New Contract
March 3, 2015
Western fruit, vegetable industries lost millions when unable to export produce at ports. Read More
FruitsWorkshop Set In Florida To Help Grow Local Food Movement
March 2, 2015
Meeting part of nationwide effort to train people how to attain grants for USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion programs. Read More
Citrus18 Must-Have Apps For GenNext Growers
March 1, 2015
We asked about your favorite mobile applications, and here's what you had to say. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoGrowers Get The Lowdown On Cooling Crops
March 1, 2015
Demonstration shows how hydrocooling can help get the most out of fruits and vegetables once harvested. Read More
FruitsDon’t Be Afraid To Charge More For Value Of Agritainment [Opinion]
February 28, 2015
A higher admission price helps to sets a level of expectation and helps offset the costs of running a successful farm marketing operation. Read More
Apples & PearsCompany Responsible For First GMO Apples Is Sold
February 27, 2015
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the company behind the world's first non-browning apples, fetches $41 million. Read More
Stone FruitPeach Training Systems Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All
February 27, 2015
Although pedestrian, ladderless orchards are increasing in California, growers in Pennsylvania are opting for tall V-training systems. Read More
IrrigationNo Federal Water For California’s Central Valley Growers – Again
February 27, 2015
Skimpy snowpack leads Bureau of Reclamation to make unprecedented announcement that there will be a zero initial allocation for the second year in a row. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Recession That Keeps On Taking
February 27, 2015
We’re still seeing the aftermath of the Great Recession on consumers’ purchasing habits seven years later. Read More
The Latest
Sweet CornAbbott & Cobb Sweet On New Sweet Corn Technology
March 3, 2015
SuperSeedWare gene type to aid varieties through marker-assisted selection. Read More
FruitsWest Coast Ports To Open With New Contract
March 3, 2015
Western fruit, vegetable industries lost millions when unable to export produce at ports. Read More
FruitsWorkshop Set In Florida To Help Grow Local Food Movemen…
March 2, 2015
Meeting part of nationwide effort to train people how to attain grants for USDA’s Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion programs. Read More
Citrus18 Must-Have Apps For GenNext Growers
March 1, 2015
We asked about your favorite mobile applications, and here's what you had to say. Read More
Florida Ag ExpoGrowers Get The Lowdown On Cooling Crops
March 1, 2015
Demonstration shows how hydrocooling can help get the most out of fruits and vegetables once harvested. Read More
FruitsDon’t Be Afraid To Charge More For Value Of Agrit…
February 28, 2015
A higher admission price helps to sets a level of expectation and helps offset the costs of running a successful farm marketing operation. Read More
Apples & PearsCompany Responsible For First GMO Apples Is Sold
February 27, 2015
Okanagan Specialty Fruits, the company behind the world's first non-browning apples, fetches $41 million. Read More
Stone FruitPeach Training Systems Aren’t One-Size-Fits-All
February 27, 2015
Although pedestrian, ladderless orchards are increasing in California, growers in Pennsylvania are opting for tall V-training systems. Read More
IrrigationNo Federal Water For California’s Central Valley Grower…
February 27, 2015
Skimpy snowpack leads Bureau of Reclamation to make unprecedented announcement that there will be a zero initial allocation for the second year in a row. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Recession That Keeps On Taking
February 27, 2015
We’re still seeing the aftermath of the Great Recession on consumers’ purchasing habits seven years later. Read More
Grower Achievement AwardSubmit Your Nomination For The 2015 Grower Achievement …
February 27, 2015
American Vegetable Grower magazine's annual award is designed to recognize an innovative operation that represents the spirit of excellence. Read More
FruitsMaximize Produce Profits By Focusing On Soil Health
February 27, 2015
Cover crops are just one of the ways you can help boost your trees’ and vines’ performance and your bottom line. Read More
FNV logo
CitrusPMA Announces Funding For Major Produce Marketing Progr…
February 26, 2015
The produce industry is getting into brand marketing in a big way. The Produce Marketing Association (PMA) has announced the launch of a new promotional campaign - FNV - designed to take a page from the marketing strategies of big-money consumer brands like Nike and Apple. Read More
GrapesWashington Winegrape Industry Announces Honors
February 26, 2015
Awards included Grower of the Year, Industry Service, Lifetime Achievement, Restaurant of the Year and Posters. Read More
GrapesSonoma Agriculture Preservation Plan Unveiled
February 26, 2015
Winegrowers’ 100-year business plan is the first of its kind in agriculture. Read More
Apples & PearsNew Plant Growth Regulator Use Expanded
February 26, 2015
Ten more states grant registrations for Fine Americas’ new Kudos PGR. Read More
Apples & PearsFrom The Road: IFTA Conference Day 5
February 26, 2015
Carlson lecture highlights where IFTA has been and looks to the next generation to continue the legacy. Read More
FruitsHave Faith In Science – Which Means GMOs [Opinion…
February 25, 2015
When it comes to farming, sticking with established, commonly accepted science is the way to go. Read More