Environmentally friendly biofumigants fight soil pests but pose rotation challenges

03/01/2011 12:00:00 PM

 

Dilemma

The Midwest has cooler temperatures and produces crops that typically are rain fed. But crops in New Mexico and the Southwest are irrigated, and that can present a bit of a conundrum for growers, Uchanski says.

“It is a little bit of a double-edged sword,” he says.

Growing and disking under a cover crop can offer a yield benefit and pest control benefit, but growers have to determine whether the input of additional water is worth it.

“You have to manage an additional crop, incorporate that crop and then hope to see the benefits,” he says. “If you don’t, it’s hard to justify continuing to do that.”

Uchanski and Snapp have had different experiences with some aspects of biofumigants.

Uchanski has used biofumigants in conjunction with chemical fumigants, but Snapp says she has seen growers use primarily one strategy or the other.

In addition, Uchanski says you’ll see better results with mustards bred specifically as biofumigants, whereas Snapp says her experience has show conventionally grown mustards seem to work just fine.

Mixed results

Biofumigants aren’t always a cure-all.

Raymond Viramontes, owner of Viramontes farms in Deming, N.M., says he tried using rapeseed from Germany to combat nematodes and suppress soilborne diseases in chili peppers.

“My results weren’t very good on chili peppers,” he says.

While the biofumigant controlled the nematodes, it did not control verticillium wilt. He lost half of an 11-acre block where he used rapeseed, but he only lost 10 percent of a block where he used a chemical fumigant.

Viramontes says he’ll continue to use rapeseed in a test plot, and he says he hopes that it may become more effective as it is incorporated into the soil over a number of years.

The biofumigant cost only one-third as much as the chemical fumigant, he says.

Ideal for organics

The big winners with biofumigants are organic growers, who have virtually no chemical tools to fight soil-borne pests, Brown says.

“For the first time ever, [organic growers] are going to have tools that are natural, that are environmentally safe, ecologically friendly, and they are going to be able to use them in organic systems,” he says.



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