Methyl bromide will be unavailable to conventional vegetable growers in the year 2005, and it cannot be used by organic growers. Chemical alternatives are more expensive and may also be subject to future restrictions. Non-chemical alternatives like solarization and organic amendments are as yet largely unproven but do offer promise of sustainable solutions free of government regulation. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effects of soil-incorporated biosolids and soil solarization on plant growth, yield, and soil fertility. Main plots were a biosolids soil amendment (37 Mg·ha-1 and a non-amended control. Treated main plots had received some type of organic amendment for the previous 6 years. Sub-plots were fumigated with methyl bromide as they had been for 6 years, or non-fumigated. Non-fumigated plots were further split into solarized and non-solarized plots. Bell pepper (Capsicum annuum `X 3R Aladdin') was grown for 8 months. Nitrogen fertilization was reduced to 50% of the recommended rate in the biosolids plots due to expected N mineralization from the biosolids amendment. Plant biomass was higher in the biosolids plots compared with the non-amended plots but there were no differences in marketable pepper yields between biosolids and non-biosolids plots. Plants grown in solarized soil produced lower plant biomass and yields than the methyl bromide and non-fumigated treatments. Soil pH and Mehlich 1-extractable P, K, Ca, Mg, Zn, Mn, Fe, and Cu were higher in biosolids plots than in non-amended control plots. Soil organic matter concentration was 3-fold higher where biosolids were applied compared with non-amended soil. The results suggest that regular organic amendment applications to a sandy Florida soil can increase plant growth and produce similar yields with less inorganic nutrients than are applied in a standard fertilization program. However, methyl bromide and non-fumigated treatments produced higher yields than soil solarization.
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