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
VegetablesSakata Seed Highlights Specialty Golden Beet
January 29, 2015
The company highlights specialty golden beet, Touchstone Gold. Read More
FruitsUse The Off-Season To Focus On Farm Safety
January 29, 2015
Prevention, planning, and preparedness are essential for all agritainment operations. Read More
Protected AgricultureHow To Successfully Produce Vegetables In Controlled Environments
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Merle Jensen offers pointers on growing systems, pest control, plant nutrition, harvesting, and more. Read More
IPMWhat You Need To Know To Maintain An Effective IPM Program In The Greenhouse
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Karin Tifft discusses the importance of scouting, pest identification, control options, and the importance of sanitation. Read More
Apples & PearsPears Get A Hefty Shout-Out From Rapper
January 28, 2015
The pome fruit is on mainstream media's radar thanks to a rapper's quote and ensuing social media blitz. Read More
FruitsHighlights From The Mid-Atlantic Fruit And Vegetable Convention
January 28, 2015
Bio-control use, media literacy, and disease control were just a few of the topics discussed at the convention held in Hershey, PA. Read More
GrapesCalifornia Table Grape Growers Offer Agricultural Scholarships
January 28, 2015
The application deadline for the agricultural scholarships is 5 p.m., Feb. 13. Read More
GrapesNew Wine Hybrid Establishment Cost Resource Available
January 28, 2015
Research from Cornell University breaks down the cost of producing hybrid winegrapes. Read More
FertilizerEasy Access To Fertilization Guidelines
January 28, 2015
New, easy-to-follow brochures take the guesswork out of almond and walnut fertilization. Read More
BerriesDormant Pruning Tips For Your Berries
January 28, 2015
Proper dormant pruning increases berry size and improves overall health of blackberry and raspberry plants. Read More
The Latest
VegetablesSakata Seed Highlights Specialty Golden Beet
January 29, 2015
The company highlights specialty golden beet, Touchstone Gold. Read More
FruitsUse The Off-Season To Focus On Farm Safety
January 29, 2015
Prevention, planning, and preparedness are essential for all agritainment operations. Read More
Protected AgricultureHow To Successfully Produce Vegetables In Controlled En…
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Merle Jensen offers pointers on growing systems, pest control, plant nutrition, harvesting, and more. Read More
IPMWhat You Need To Know To Maintain An Effective IPM Prog…
January 28, 2015
Greenhouse expert Karin Tifft discusses the importance of scouting, pest identification, control options, and the importance of sanitation. Read More
Apples & PearsPears Get A Hefty Shout-Out From Rapper
January 28, 2015
The pome fruit is on mainstream media's radar thanks to a rapper's quote and ensuing social media blitz. Read More
FruitsHighlights From The Mid-Atlantic Fruit And Vegetable Co…
January 28, 2015
Bio-control use, media literacy, and disease control were just a few of the topics discussed at the convention held in Hershey, PA. Read More
GrapesCalifornia Table Grape Growers Offer Agricultural Schol…
January 28, 2015
The application deadline for the agricultural scholarships is 5 p.m., Feb. 13. Read More
GrapesNew Wine Hybrid Establishment Cost Resource Available
January 28, 2015
Research from Cornell University breaks down the cost of producing hybrid winegrapes. Read More
FertilizerEasy Access To Fertilization Guidelines
January 28, 2015
New, easy-to-follow brochures take the guesswork out of almond and walnut fertilization. Read More
BerriesDormant Pruning Tips For Your Berries
January 28, 2015
Proper dormant pruning increases berry size and improves overall health of blackberry and raspberry plants. Read More
NutsHow Freezing Temperature Affect Bearing and New Trees
January 28, 2015
Key points before and after the critical bloom period make exposure to freezing temperatures relevant. Read More
CitrusFlorida Citrus Is Still A Big Deal [Opinion]
January 28, 2015
Even while in the grips of greening, citrus continues to be a big contributor to the Sunshine State's economy. Read More
FruitsUSDA Forecast Predicts Normal Water Supply For Parts Of…
January 27, 2015
The Southwest, Sierra Nevada region, and Pacific Northwest are starting the year drier than normal. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Story Of Honeycrisp Is One Of Challenges And Succes…
January 27, 2015
‘Everything’s different’ in this world of 150 million 40-pound box world of apple growing. Read More
BerriesWhy You Should Be Growing Black Raspberries
January 27, 2015
Amazing health benefits for consumers and production and marketing benefits for the grower make this berry a must-consider option for your operation. Read More
Apples & PearsThe Dark side Of Honeycrisp
January 27, 2015
Growers say there’s a love-hate relationship with America’s darling apple. Read More
Apples & PearsExpanded Market Access For U.S. Grown Apples To China
January 26, 2015
Agreement expected to boost apple exports by $100 million per year. Read More
CitrusNominees Sought For Florida Agricultural Environmental …
January 26, 2015
Honor recognizes those developing and adopting environmentally innovative farming practices. Read More