OxiDate 5.0 & TerraGrow - A Match Made in Soil
Produce growers face a number of challenges each season. Success in harvesting a profitable crop can often hinge on how these challenges are planned for and addressed. This means planning ahead for labor, seed and supply orders, amendment plans, field prep, and pest and disease management, among many other things. Organic growers face a unique set of challenges in addition to those above.
Disease management can be an especially frustrating challenge, but by following a few key principles, crop diseases can be prevented and a clean crop can be harvested. Disease management is all about prevention.
The central tenets of successful disease management include:
- Knowing which diseases are likely to be seen in which crops. This can come from direct experience, the experience of other growers in the same area who are growing similar crops, or from regional guides and resources.
- Understanding the life cycle of a crop and when it is most susceptible to diseases of concern. Some crops can “out-grow” a disease, or become resistant to disease pressure once the plant is well established, whereas some crops may be most susceptible to a given disease near the end of their season.
- Being familiar with the life cycle of the pathogens that cause diseases of concern, including the point of origin, which can often be the soil. Given “ideal” conditions, some pathogens can persist in soil for many years.
Image of “Disease Triangle” from University of Nebraska
The “Disease Triangle” gives a clear picture of what is required for diseases to affect a crop. By implementing control strategies that work to address one or more of the three points of the triangle, a successful harvest becomes more likely. Think about crop diseases in terms of the “pressure” they put on crops - their goal to make crop plants their home. Disease can be prevented by fortifying plants to best “resist” this “pressure”.
One of the more significant disease issues we have seen as many organic market farms mature is an increase in soil-borne disease pressure. We see this across the country and in many different crops. There are a number of soil-borne pathogens that, if left unaddressed, can create lasting headaches for farms and farmers.
Two of the major soil-borne diseases of concern to many organic produce growers include:
- Damping off - a common disease of seedlings, caused primarily by Rhizoctonia, Fusarium and Pythium species. This disease is typically fatal to young plants. Symptoms include failure of seedlings to emerge, water-soaked or mushy leaves and stems, wilting of young leaves, absence of roots and cobweb-like growth on plants.
- Root and stem rots - caused by Rhizoctonia, Fusarium, Phytophthora and Pythium species. Symptoms include stunting, yellowing, wilting, slow growth, absence of roots, lesions on stems and dieback.
Conditions that favor the development of these diseases include warm and wet/saturated soil, especially early in the season.
So how should an organic produce grower go about preventing soil-borne disease outbreaks?
Start by implementing cultural controls wherever possible.
- Practice good sanitation when seeding/propagating (Greenhouse Container Sanitation 101). This can help plants survive the critical early stages of growth.
- Work to minimize or mitigate environmental conditions that favor disease development. Do what you can to avoid an overly warm, wet environment. This could mean using ventilation or fans in tunnels and propagation houses, increasing plant spacing within rows, and orienting rows to take advantage of prevailing winds and natural drainage of slopes in fields. It could also mean delaying planting until the ground is drier.
- Reduce disease pressure by removing (or “roguing”) any plants or flats of plant starts that show symptoms of disease.
- Rotate plant types in a given field at every opportunity. This includes cash crops and cover crops. The goal is to deprive the pathogen of its preferred host, so pay attention to those latin names on your seed labels.
- Focus on fertility. Amend soils according to soil report recommendations to ensure that the plants have the nutrients they need. Fertile, well-balanced soils grow healthier plants. -Select and plant varieties or rootstocks that have inherent resistance to diseases of concern. For example, some tomato rootstocks are highly resistant to Fusarium.
Of course sometimes we can’t control the environment, and sometimes we need to grow specific crops or varieties that are susceptible to disease. What then?
The technical team at BioSafe Systems has developed an integrated, two-step approach for pre-plant soil treatment and the prevention of soil-borne diseases.
Step One - Pre-plant soil treatment with OxiDate 5.0
A pre-plant soil treatment with OxiDate 5.0 can give growers a “clean slate” by eliminating the soil-borne pathogens we’ve been discussing here. OxiDate 5.0 is a combination of hydrogen peroxide and peroxyacetic acid. OxiDate 5.0 is now labeled as a pre-plant soil treatment for control of damping-off and root rot and stem rot diseases caused by pathogens such as Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, and Fusarium. When applied appropriately and according to label directions, the active ingredients in OxiDate 5.0 kill these plant pathogens on contact. The resulting byproduct of this oxidizing reaction is dissolved oxygen, which can help stimulate plant growth, root development, and nutrient uptake.
Step Two - Soil and root inoculation with TerraGrow
Once pathogens have been addressed, soil biology will begin to recover quickly. Applying beneficial microbes like those found in TerraGrow is a good way to ensure that root systems and soils are colonized by microorganisms that will help plants grow and thrive. TerraGrow is a complementary blend of five different Bacillus species, along with humates and a package of biology-stimulating microbial foods to help these beneficial bacteria become well-established. Applying TerraGrow after an OxiDate 5.0 treatment can help ensure an increase in plant growth, root strength, nutrient uptake, vigor and yield.
By following the steps above growers can ensure that they have minimized the disease pressure that their crops are likely to face. Using the two-step protocol developed by BioSafe Systems will help ensure disease-free root systems and healthy crops.
Please visit our BioSafe page to learn more about this company and their innovative solutions.