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Gladis M. Zinati

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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Gladis M. Zinati

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Gladis M. Zinati

Conventional agricultural systems increase per-area food production, but deplete natural resources and degrade both crop and environmental quality. Many of these concerns are addressed by sustainable agricultural systems, integrated pest management, biocontrol, and other alternative systems. Environmental and social concerns have escalated the need for alternative agricultural systems in the last decade. One alternative, the organic farming system, substitutes cultural and biological inputs for synthetically made fertilizers and chemicals for crop nutrition and pest management. Practices used for crop and pest management are similar during transition from conventional to organic farming systems, but produce is not certified to be organic during the transition period. During the transition from conventional to organic farming, growers may face pest control difficulties and lower yields when conventional practices are abandoned. The objectives of this paper are to 1) give an overview of the reasons for converting to organic farming and the challenges that growers face during the transition period, 2) outline some potential strategies for crop, soil, and pest management, and 3) list guidelines and recommendations for pest management during the transition to organic farming. Implementation of crop and pest management practices depends on geographical location, climate, available onsite resources, and history of the land. During transition, growers rely on cultural mechanisms and on organic and mineral sources to improve soil fertility, to build a population of natural enemies to suppress pest populations. Pest management practices during the transition period that reduce pest populations to economically manageable levels include crop rotation, cultivation, cover crops, mulches, crop diversification, resistant varieties, and insect traps. These practices also enrich the soil biota and increase crop yields before produce is certified organically grown.

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Gladis M. Zinati

A question/answer discussion session was conducted at the conclusion of the workshop “Pest Management During Transition to Organic Farming Systems”. The following categories were used to summarize the discussion: 1) questions and answers related to cultural and biological practices and their effects under various climatic conditions, 2) recommendations for pest management, and 3) future research needs. While many tactics are available, selecting and adopting the most suitable approach depends on soil conditions of the land, location, and the availability of the resources at affordable prices. Definitely, more research studies are needed on 1) weed seed banks under various cultural practices at different regions, 2) relationships between soil nutrients, and pest control, and 3) approaches to increase profitability of organic production during the transition period.

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Gladis M. Zinati, John Dighton, and Arend-Jan Both

We tested the effects of using an inoculum containing natural ericoid roots and soil (NERS) with two fertilizer and irrigation rates on plant growth, shoot (stems and leaves) nutrient concentration, leachate quality, and mycorrhizal colonization of container-grown Coast Leucothoe [Leucothoe axillaris (Lam.) D. Don] and Japanese Pieris [Pieris japonica (Thunb.) D. Don ex G. Don]. Uniform rooted liners were grown in 10.8-L containers in a pine bark, peatmoss, and sand (8:1:1 by volume) substrate medium in a randomized complete block design with four replications. A controlled-release fertilizer, Polyon® Plus 14-16-8 (14N–7P–6.6K), was incorporated in the substrate medium at the 100% manufacturer's recommended fertilizer rate [representing high fertilizer rate (HF)] (56 g per container) to supply 7.84 g nitrogen (N) and at 50% the manufacturer's recommended rate [representing low fertilizer rate (LF)]. Plants were irrigated using a cyclic drip irrigation system at high (HI) and low (LI) irrigation rates calibrated to supply 25.2 L of water and 16.8 L per week, respectively. On average, NERS inoculation increased shoot growth of Leucothoe and Pieris by 56% and 60%, respectively. Shoots of Leucothoe inoculated with NERS had higher N, phosphorus (P), magnesium (Mg), and manganese (Mn) concentrations than non-inoculated plants. At LF, nitrous-N (NOx-N) and orthophosphorus (PO4-P) concentrations in the leachate were reduced by 53% from Leucothoe and 62% from Pieris compared with HF-treated plants. A reduction of 37% and 36% in PO4-P concentration in leachates from Leucothoe and Pieris, respectively, were achieved at the reduced irrigation (LI) rate. The NERS inoculation reduced PO4-P concentrations in leachate from Leucothoe by 26% and NOx-N concentration by 33% in leachates from Pieris compared with non-inoculated plants. Compared with plants grown in the HI–HF treatment, the combination of LI–LF treatment reduced NOx-N concentrations in leachates from Leucothoe by 60% (P = 0.016) and reduced PO4-P leachate concentrations from Pieris by 72% (P = 0.0096). Decreasing the fertilizer rate to 50% of the recommended rate and the irrigation rate to 67% of the recommended rate in conjunction with the incorporation of NERS reduced leachate nutrient concentrations of two main water pollutants (NOx-N and PO4-P). Adopting the practice of adding NERS containing fungi and bacteria can be an effective system to increase shoot dry weight, allow reduction in fertilizer application, conserve water for irrigation, and minimize subsequent nutrient runoff in nursery operations.

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Gladis M. Zinati, Herbert H. Bryan, and Yuncong Li

Using herbs for medicinal purposes, ornamentals, and landscape plantings has increased significantly. Propagating from seeds is considered the most-efficient method of producing medicinal plants for commercial production. Among the herb seeds the purple coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) was found difficult to germinate. Laboratory studies were conducted to: 1) determine optimum temperature from a temperature range 15 to 30 °C for seed germination; 2) determine effects of 5 10, 20, and 30 days of stratification at 5 and 10 °C in darkness on germination; and 3) determine effects of priming in the dark for 1, 3, 6, and 9 days with 0.1 M KNO3 and biostimulants at optimum temperature to enhance early emergence and final germination. Germination was enhanced from 45% in untreated seeds to 81% in seeds treated with either 50 ppm GA4/7 or 100 ppm ethephon at 24 °C. Final germination was 81% under daylight conditions when seeds were stratified in dark at 10 °C for 30 days over nonstratified seeds (13%). Priming seeds in 0.1 M KNO3 for 3 days significantly enhanced early germination to 70% with 100 and 150 ppm ethephon and final percent germination of 88% with either 100 ppm ethephon or 150 ppm GA4/7, while untreated control seeds resulted in 31% for same period of priming.

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Gladis M. Zinati, Herbert H. Bryan, Waldemar Klassen, and Aref A. Abdul-Baki

In the quest to produce tomatoes without using methyl bromide, cover crops including sunnhemp, cowpea, hairy vetch, and sorghum sudan were planted on calcareous gravelly soils of southern Florida in Oct. 1998. These crops, singly or in mix, were grown on raised beds for 3 months before they were mowed down with no tillage. Sorghum sudan was plowed down and covered with plastic mulch, a conventional farming practice. In addition, uncropped plots fertilized with 6 N–2.6P–10K at 0 or 1124 kg·ha–1 were either treated with or without methyl bromide-chloropicrin and plowed down. `Sanibel' tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill) were transplanted in two plant densities (one row vs. two rows on a bed) immediately after mowing. Tomatoes were fertigated with 112 N and 186 K kg·ha–1 during the growing season. Sunnhemp biomass alone or in mix with cowpea was higher than any other treatment. Biomass of sorghum sudan and hairy vetch were lowest. Canopy coverage, nutrient content of cover crops, and their effects on tomato growth, nutrient content, and yield will be discussed.