High Temperature Solarization for Production of Weed-free Container Soils and Potting Mixes

in HortTechnology

A double-tent solarization technique, which accumulates higher soil temperatures than solarization of open fields, was recently approved by the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) as a nematicidal treatment for container nurseries. Due to the need for broad-spectrum pest control in container nursery settings, this technique was tested to determine its usefulness as an herbicidal treatment. Laboratory-derived thermal death dosages (temperatur × time) for several weed species important in California, including common purslane (Portulaca oleracea), tumble pigweed (Amaranthus albus), and black nightshade (Solanum nigrum), were previously determined and the data were used as guidelines for devising treatment duration in this study. In two field experiments conducted in 1999 and 2000 to validate the laboratory data, moist soil was placed in black polyethylene planting bags [3.8 L (1 gal) volume], artificially infested with seeds of the three test species, and subjected to 0 to 24 hours of double-tent solarization after reaching a threshold temperature of 60 °C (140 °F) (about 1.5 to 2.0 h after initiation of the experiment). In 1999, samples were removed at 2, 4, 20, and 24 hours after reaching the 60 °C threshold, then incubated to ameliorate possible secondary dormancy effects. Seeds failed to germinate in any of the solarized treatments. In 2000, samples were removed at 0, 1, 2, and 6 h after reaching 60 °C. Again, apart from the nonsolarized control treatment, all weed seeds failed to germinate at any of the sampling periods, in accordance with prior laboratory thermal death results. Reference tests to estimate effects of container size on soil heating showed that soil in smaller container sizes (soil volume) reached higher temperatures, and were maintained at high temperature [above 60 °C (140 °F)] for a longer period of time, than larger container sizes. The double-tent solarization technique can be used by commercial growers and household gardeners to effectively and inexpensively produce weed-free soil and potting mixes in warmer climatic areas.

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