Compost in the 20th Century: A Tool to Control Plant Diseases in Nursery and Vegetable Crops

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  • 1 Rutgers University, Department of Plant Biology and Pathology, 166 Foran Hall, 59 Dudley Road, New Brunswick, NJ 08901.

The discovery of disease suppression in certain bark composts increased the interest in using compost as growing substrate to control root rot diseases caused by Phytophthora cinnamomi. Disease suppression mechanisms include antibiosis, competition, hyperparasitism, and induced systemic resistance. Although abiotic factors may influence disease suppression, the latter is often based on microbial interactions—the two common mechanisms being general for pythium (Pythium spp.) and phytophthora root rot (Phytophthora spp.) and specific for rhizoctonia (Rhizoctonia solani). The discovery of disease suppression agents in compost led to the development of biocontrol agent-fortified compost during the last decade of the 20th century. The suggested recommendations for future research and extension outreach may include 1) development of methods to manage bacterial and viral diseases through the use of compost; 2) exploration of the potential effects of fortified compost on insect pests suppression; 3) improvement of inoculation methods of composts with biocontrol agents to produce consistent levels of disease suppression at the commercial scale; 4) development of effective fortified compost teas for suppressing foliar diseases; 5) education of compost producers on methods of production of fortified compost that suppress specific diseases; and 6) education of end-users on uses of fortified compost and its by-products.

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Contributor Notes

E-mail: zinati@aesop.rutgers.edu
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