Soil disinfestation with steam has potential to partially replace fumigants such as methyl bromide, chloropicrin, and 1,3-dichloropropene because it is effective, safer to apply, and has less negative impact on the environment. Here, we compared the efficacy of steam and steam + mustard seed meal (MSM) to chloropicrin on soil disinfection, plant growth, and fruit yield in a strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) fruiting field. The MSM was applied at 3368 kg·ha−1 before the steam application. Steam was injected into a 3-m-wide reverse tiller that was set to till 30 to 40 cm deep. Soil temperatures at depths of 10, 20, 25, and 35 cm were monitored. Steam and steam + MSM treatments reduced the viability of purslane seeds and nutsedge tubers, microsclerotia density of Verticillium dahliae, propagule density of Pythium ultimum, cumulative weed densities, and biomass compared with the nontreated control. Moreover, the steam application was as efficacious as chloropicrin on these pests. The growth and fruit yield of strawberries grown on soils previously treated with the steam and steam + MSM treatments were similar to those in the chloropicrin treatment and were higher than those in the nontreated control. Our study indicated that steam, steam + MSM, and chloropicrin are equally effective at suppressing weeds and soilborne pathogens. These results suggest that the steam and steam + MSM treatment can be a practical alternative for soil disinfestation in conventional and organic strawberry fields.
Steam has long been used to disinfest greenhouse soils. However, there is increasing interest in expanding the use of steam for in-field soil disinfestation as an alternative to chemical fumigants. Previous studies demonstrated that allyl-isothiocyanate (AITC) reduced viability of weed seeds and plant pathogen propagules, but AITC has a low vapor pressure and is relatively immobile in soil. Heat has been used in the past to enhance the mobility of soil fumigants such as methyl bromide (i.e., “hot gassing”). The effect of steam heat on the mobility of AITC is unknown. The objective of this study was to investigate the potential synergistic effect of steam plus ATIC against weed seeds and a plant pathogen. AITC alone did not reduce the viability of the four weed species and the number of Verticillium dahliae microsclerotia. The steam + AITC treatment reduced the viability of V. dahliae at 12.5 and 18 cm distances by 82% and 88%, respectively, and knotweed and nettle seeds at 70 cm from injection point by 75% and 86%, respectively, from the center of microplots compared with steam alone. The results suggest that AITC and steam have a complementary effect on soilborne pests because steam increases the mobility of AITC.
Soil disinfestation with steam has been evaluated in strawberry fruiting fields as a nonchemical method of soil disinfestation; however, little is known about the use of steam for field production of strawberry daughter plants. The objective of this study was to compare daughter plant production in soils previously treated with steam compared to those treated with standard methyl bromide (MB) and chloropicrin (Pic) treatments. A prototype field steam applicator and a self-propelled diesel-fueled steam generator and applicator were tested at two high-elevation nurseries near Macdoel, CA, in Sept. 2018 and Aug. 2020, respectively. The steam application heated the soil above 60 °C for ≈60 minutes to a depth of 25 cm at both nurseries. The pest control efficacy of the steam applications against weeds, Verticillium spp., Tylenchulus semipenetrans, and Pythium ultimum were similar to that of MB:Pic. The stolons and daughter plants densities in fields with steam treatment were similar to those in fields with MB:Pic treatment. Therefore, we suggest that soil disinfestation with steam may be a viable method of producing healthy strawberry plants. However, more research is needed to verify plant sanitation and quality.
Growth response of `Sambok Honey' watermelon grafted onto different rootstocks, including four Citrullus rootstocks and three other cucurbitaceous rootstocks, was evaluated at low and normal temperature regimes. Marked reduction in plant growth rate was observed in plants grown at low temperatures as compared to those grown at normal or optimal temperatures. Relative growth reduction rates were 40% to 48% for vine length, 39% to 51% for total leaf area, 37% to 60% for shoot fresh weight, and 50% to 79% for shoot dry weight, respectively. Watermelon rootstock PI 482322 showed comparable plant growth as the most popular rootstock (Shintozwa pumpkin) even at low temperatures. `Sambok Honey' watermelon grafted onto watermelon hybrids `PI 271969 × PI 296341' and `PI 271769 × Calhoun Gray', showed comparable plant growth as FR Dantos bottle gourd rootstock. Index of growth ability at low temperature (IGALT), which was calculated on the basis of reduced rate of vine length, dry weight, and leaf area, was comparatively high in C. martinezii, Shintozwa, PI 482322, and `PI 271769 × PI 296341' rootstocks (50% or higher) and lowest in own-rooted `Sambok Honey' or in watermelon plants on `Knight' rootstock. Watermelon hybrids `PI 271969 × PI 296341' and `PI 271769 × Calhoun Gray' exhibited better or at least comparable growth at low temperatures as compared to `FR Dantos', thus confirming the feasibility of using watermelon rootstocks even in winter greenhouse conditions.