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Vegetable IPM Updates Archive
Cooperative Extension
Soil Solarization (Jun. 29, 2011)

Summer is upon us and so are the triple digit temperatures that we in the desert will endure until at least the beginning of autumn in mid-September. Although we may not personally appreciate the daily exposure to the summer heat, it is the perfect time for soil solarization. Solarization of soil is accomplished by covering moist soil with clear plastic, then allowing the suns energy to heat the soil. 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 from 2004 to 2007 in Yuma, the average temperature of soil at a depth of 2 inches during a 1-month summer solarization period was 113F, compared to 102F for nonsolarized soil. The average peak afternoon temperature in solarized soil during these trials was 128F. In these solarization trials, conducted in soil naturally infested with the lettuce Fusarium wilt pathogen, the incidence of this disease 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. The advantage of plant pathogen reduction was mentioned earlier. One disadvantage is the cost and handling of the plastic film. For more information concerning soil solarization, please contact me.

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For questions or comments on any of the topics please contact Marco Pena at the Yuma Agricultural Center.
College of Agriculture, The University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ.

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