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Content archived on 2024-04-30

Prevention of root diseases in closed soilless growing systems by microbial optimization, a replacement for methyl bromide


The objective of the project is to develop a sustainable system for the prevention of root diseases in closed soilless growing systems in greenhouses by microbial optimisation. The sustainable system may replace the soil grown system, at which the soil fumigant methyl bromide is used in Southern Europe and the run-to-waste soilless system in Northern Europe. Closed soilless growing systems have significant advantages: conservation of scarce water resources, no leaching of nutrients and pesticides and improved quality of products. Disadvantages of the system are rapid dispersal of soil-borne pathogens by the recirculating nutrient solution and accumulation of potential phytotoxic metabolites. Active disinfection with high-tech equipment suppresses or destroys the natural microflora. Recent research has demonstrated a natural suppressiveness by the resident microflora against colonisation by pathogens. Equally passive disinfection with slow (sand) filtration has shown that the resident microflora is not destroyed, while elimination of some of the most harmful pathogens can be achieved. A combination of optimising the natural suppression and passive disinfection will lead to a sustainable technologically simple system, which is also inexpensive and robust. To achieve this sustainable system the following steps have to be taken: diseased conditions and in relation to active and passive disinfection methods; healthy and diseased conditions and, again, in relation to the disinfection met techniques need to be elucidated to improve the efficacy of the method. These three steps provide the basic information towards the sustainable concept of disease suppression in closed systems. The results will be used in the next step: - to enhance the microbial suppression of two root pathogens (Phytophthora cryptogea, Pythium aphanidermatum) by stimulation and management of the natural presence of the resident microflora. The final step will be to inform commercial growers and suppliers of the results by demonstration of the sustainable system via open days, a workshop and publication in technical and scientific journals. The research will be carried out on major crops in protected cultivation: tomato, cucumber and gerbera. The final outcome will be a sustainable soilless system which can be adopted in Northern and Southern Europe, whereby water resource is managed effectively, pesticide use is minimised and replaced by nonchemical treatments and the environment is protected in the long-term.

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