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Integrated Management of Soilborne Pests in Strawberry and Vegetable Production Systems: Biological Systems and Chemical Alternatives to Methyl Bromide

Investigators
Louws, Frank
Institutions
North Carolina State University
Start date
2009
End date
2012
Objective
We assembled an inter-disciplinary and inter-state response and vision team of key private and public sector stakeholders that seeks to implement chemical and biological-based alternatives to MeBr and seeks to advance the science of plant pathology, weed science, horticultural science and farming system practices. Three strategic goals of research and extension are identified to address critical use nominations for cucurbits, peppers, tomatoes and strawberry fruit in the Southeast USA:
  1. Tactic substitution - addressing short term needs of growers who seek non-ozone depleting fumigant alternatives. Components include available and forthcoming fumigants combined with application methods and use of novel mulches and technologies to enhance efficacy and/or mitigate emerging regulatory issues;
  2. Tactic Diversification - focuses on medium term alternatives that includes non-fumigant and IPM based tactics and components such as use of novel and registered fungicides, nematicides and herbicides drip delivered for targeted and efficacious management of pests and advancing grafting of fruiting vegetables;
  3. Tactic Development - focuses on longer-term goals to explore microbial ecology and farming systems-based approaches. Components include biological/anaerobic soil disinfestation, mustard seed meal applications and biased soil profiles that favor beneficial microbial communities.
Finally, we will focus on extending outcomes through multi-tactic mechanisms including participatory on-farm-research, web-based information, extension agent training, field days, presentations at most fruit and vegetable meetings in the SE and along the eastern seaboard, scientific presentations at professional meetings, peer reviewed publications, and writings in extension articles and industry driven newsletters.

Combined efforts are expected to result in technically and economical feasible assessments and implementation of alternatives, exploration of viable diversification and development of integrated pest management tactics, and a region-wide advanced understanding of the biology, ecology and management of key soilborne pests.

More information
Non-Technical Summary: Methyl bromide-dependent plasticulture crop production has been an integral part of small-acreage farm operations throughout the Southeastern United States (SEUS). The plasticulture system is a "tool-box" to obtain high productivity in strawberry and vegetable production systems. Methyl bromide (MeBr) has been the primary soil fumigant as a tactic within the plasticulture system to manage a wide spectrum of pests including weeds, nematodes, insects and soilborne plant pathogens. However, it is an ozone depleting substance and therefore is being phased out for most agricultural uses in accordance with the Montreal Protocol. The challenge our clientele faces tend to be very different than the clientele in other major MeBr-dependent production systems. We typically do not work with large farming enterprises that have the capability to allocate personnel time and financial resources to specifically seek out viable alternatives for their enterprises, to buy and/or modify new equipment, or to allocate large areas to trial alternatives (with a perceived high risk). Rather, we work with many growers who tend to have limited acreages that are essential to farm viability and many of them produce multiple crops (strawberries, various vegetables). Thus, our region faces multiple definable problems: there are technical and economic issues associated with alternatives and there are adoption issues and barriers that need to be overcome. In contrast, a leading portion of our clientele is innovative and seeks non-fumigant-based approaches to successfully grow their crops. With a high diversity of farming systems in our region, we have conducted extensive multi-disciplinary and multi-state programs to seek a diversity of viable chemical and biologically-based alternative systems to the MeBr. We have been able to advance the science and practice of weed science, plant pathology, horticultural science, farming systems research and agricultural economics and are delivering this research-based information to successfully enable growers to transition to alternative production practices, with opportunities and challenges to do more. Our mission long-term goal is to foster a strawberry and vegetable industry that is competitive, sustainable, and conducive to Southeastern USA (SEUS) farm viability. Such a vision encompasses short, mid- and long-term outcomes and is dependent on the diverse stakeholder objectives identified. The specific goals can be partitioned into four main sub-goals: GOAL 1) Tactic substitution - to enable growers to transition to economically and technically viable non-ozone depleting fumigants; GOAL 2) Tactic diversification - to develop and/or implement other chemical-based tactics or non-chemical-based tactics extendable in the near term to effectively manage economically constraining soilborne pests and improve crop performance; GOAL 3) Tactic development - To enable growers to adopt to economically and technically viable biologically-based solutions to complement or replace fumigant and chemical inputs; GOAL 4) To effectively extend the research-based information to stakeholders.

Approach: GOAL 1) Tactic substitution - to enable growers to transition to economically and technically viable non-ozone depleting fumigants. Objective 1-1: Evaluate lower alternative fumigation rates on both VIF and TIF mulches to determine the lowest amount of fumigant that can be used under these mulches and maintain crop yield. Objective 1-2: Evaluate the residual fumigant levels during fumigant plant-back intervals to determine if damaging fumigant levels are still present at planting times under VIF and TIF mulches. We propose to conduct rate x mulch studies to determine the optimum rates needed for management of the soilborne pest complexes and to determine parameters that will enable growers to predict plant-back intervals. GOAL 2) Tactic diversification - to develop and/or implement other chemical-based tactics or non-chemical-based tactics extendable in the near term to effectively manage economically constraining soilborne pests and improve crop performance. Objective 2.1 and 2.2: Determine the efficacy of fungicides, nematicides and herbicides optimally applied to manage site-specific strawberry and tomato pests. We propose to design programs that combine our knowledge and experience about the biology of the pests, pesticide efficacy and use patterns, crop growth cycles and critical pest-free periods to develop non-fumigant approaches to manage targeted soil pests. Objective 2.3. Evaluation of selected herbicides and novel mulches to manage weeds in tomatoes, peppers and strawberries. Objective 2.4. Evaluate critical weed free periods for grafted tomatoes and differential sensitivity of rootstocks to herbicides in field trials. Studies are proposed to determine the effect of in-row weed establishment and removal timings on tomato yield and quality loss and weed biology. GOAL 3): Tactic development - To enable growers to adopt to economically and technically viable biologically-based solutions to complement or replace fumigant and chemical inputs. Objective 3.1 & 3.2. Evaluation of Biologically-based systems for strawberry and tomato production. We propose to explore novel and biologically-based methods to manage soilborne pests. Objective 3.1 and 3.2 are functionally an effort to manage microbial communities for pest/disease suppressive and plant health benefits. Objective 3.3. To explore innovative production systems to produce strawberries in high tunnel systems without fumigants. We propose to determine if strawberries can be successfully produced using artificial substrates compared to fumigated soil-based culture. GOAL 4: To effectively extend the research-based information to stakeholders. Objective 4.1. Economic Analysis. We propose to do economic analysis on the most promising treatments of reduced rates x novel mulches; use of selected non-fumigant pesticides in strawberry and tomatoes, and on selected biological systems evaluated in objectives 3.1, 3.2. and 3.3. Objective 4.2. Extend the research-based information to stakeholders. Multiple methods will be adopted to communicate research-based outcomes consistent with the history of this program.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
NC09791
Accession number
219454
Categories
Chemical Contaminants
Parasites
Commodities
Produce