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Alternatives eyed for methyl bromide
Date:3/16/2011

This release is available in Spanish.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists trying to help Florida growers find a replacement for methyl bromide are studying an alternative soil treatment that uses molasses as one of its ingredients.

Researchers with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are examining whether a cropping system that uses molasses to stimulate microbial activity could be used to replace the popular fumigant. They also are studying recently developed fumigants. The work, presented at the recent Annual International Research Conference on Methyl Bromide Alternatives and Emissions Reductions, supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.

Farmers have been using methyl bromide since the 1930s to control a broad spectrum of nematodes, pests and pathogens. But because methyl bromide depletes the earth's stratospheric ozone layer, growers worldwide are being required to find a replacement. That's a tall order in Florida, where the sandy soils limit organic alternatives and the mild winters serve as a safe harbor for many nematodes, weeds and pathogens.

ARS scientists Erin Rosskopf and Nancy Kokalis-Burelle and former ARS research associate David Butler raised bell peppers and eggplant at the agency's U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Fla., to test a combination of composted broiler litter, molasses and anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD). In ASD, topsoil is saturated with water and covered with a plastic tarp. Then, a carbon source-in this case molasses-is added to stimulate microbial activity.

The sun-drenched tarp "cooks" the weed seeds in the soil, and the carbon and water increase microbial activity, creating conditions conducive to pest control. As part of the project, ARS scientists Greg
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Contact: Dennis O'Brien
dennis.obrien@ars.usda.gov
301-504-1624
United States Department of Agriculture - Research, Education and Economics
Source:Eurekalert

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