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Vegetable IPM Updates Archive
Cooperative Extension
Soil Solarization (June 26, 2013)

Now that it is officially summer, constant triple-digit daytime temperatures will be the norm until at least the beginning of autumn. Although we may not personally appreciate the summer heat, it is the perfect time for soil solarization. Briefly summarized, solarization of soil is accomplished by covering moist soil with clear plastic, then allowing the sun’s energy to heat the soil over a period of time. A great deal of research in diverse geographical regions has demonstrated that soil solarization can raise temperatures to levels lethal to many different types of plant pathogenic fungi. The plastic serves to both conserve soil moisture and retard heat loss. In field solarization trials conducted a few years ago in Yuma, the average temperature of soil was 113°F at a depth of 2 inches during a 1-month summer solarization period, compared to 102°F for nonsolarized soil. The average peak afternoon temperature in solarized soil during these trials was 128°F. In these multi-year solarization trials, conducted in soil naturally infested with the lettuce Fusarium wilt pathogen, disease incidence in a subsequent planting of lettuce was reduced from 42 to 91% compared to disease levels in nonsolarized plots. Soil solarization, like any other cultural practice, has its benefits as well as drawbacks. Documented benefits include significant population reductions of different soil-borne plant pathogens as well as numbers of viable weed seeds. Drawbacks include the cost of buying, laying, maintaining, and removing the plastic film.

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For questions or comments on any of the topics please contact Marco Pena at the Yuma Agricultural Center.
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