If you’re looking for a way to prepare your soil for planting by eliminating weeds and pests that are easy and affordable, consider solarization. This method involves several steps: watering, covering the area with clear plastic, and then using the captured heat from the sun to bake the soil.
You can also call it soil sterilization because not only weeds and pests will be extinguished, but organic life in the soil. However, the positive news is that beneficial organisms like earthworms and fungi usually quickly colonize sterilized ground. Growers can accelerate the process by reintroducing mycorrhizal spores and beneficial bacteria, available at garden centers. Organic matter can be restored with liberal use of compost and composted manure.
Soil solarization in agriculture can be combined with other control measures to create an integrated approach, to improve the effectiveness. The use of the described practice has expanded to include structure and sanitation disinfection, controlling human pathogens, and more.
Before the procedure, there are several interesting aspects to think about. For example, solarization of soil should begin in late spring, before most seeds have had time to germinate and larvae have a chance to emerge. The area where you plan to apply it should be exposed to sunlight for 6–8 hours per day. Otherwise, the procedure will not be effective. Weigh all your efforts and then proceed.
Pros & Cons of Soil Solarization
First of all, it is a natural and sustainable pest control method that reduces soil-borne pathogens and pests, minimizing the need for chemical interventions. It also works effectively as it comes to weed elimination. The heat from the sun disrupts weed growth cycles, reducing weed populations greatly.
If you want to extend the growing season, you should know that solarization enables cultivating crops for longer periods. Another crucial advantage of this procedure is improving the soil’s water-holding capacity. Plants will have an easier time surviving drought, and this will help to reduce the amount of water needed for irrigation in the future.
Solarization improves nutrient availability in the soil, making essential elements accessible to plants and promoting healthy growth. The procedure also helps to create a proper environment for seed germination and accelerated plant development, promoting more robust and healthier seedlings.
Even though the described practice is quite helpful, it still has several disadvantages. In addition, solarization is not universal; it is best done in clay soils that retain water, as sandy soils drain quickly.
The procedure itself takes several weeks and is quite labor-intensive. It requires proper planning, which may not be suitable for urgent planting schedules.
Since most of the heat is concentrated in the upper layers of the soil, deeper layers of soil may experience a different level of temperature increase. In practice, this means that weeds with deep root systems, as well as pathogens and pests that sit deeper, will not be eliminated entirely. Beneficial soil organisms can also be exposed to temperatures that harm them.
Soil solarization with plastic sheets may cause environmental concerns. Some plastics contain harmful chemicals that can leach into the soil. Additionally, the process generates non-recyclable waste, which is not sustainable.
Pest Management and Disease Control Using Soil Solarization
Soil solarization is an effective method for eliminating various plant-infecting fungi and bacteria. It can control pathogens such as Verticillium dahliae, Phytophthora cinnamomi, and Rhizoctonia. However, some diseases like stem and root rots caused by Macrophomina and Pythium resist this method.
The practice is most effective on the surface layer of the soil, targeting annual weeds like Ageratum, Amaranthus, and Portulaca. It can also eliminate perennial weeds like kudzu and bermudagrass with multiple treatments. Additionally, solarization reduces the diseases and pests associated with nearby wild plants by removing weeds and reducing the overall presence of diseases and pests.
How to Solarize Soil with EOSDA Crop Monitoring’s Assistance
EOSDA Crop Monitoring is an all-in-one precision agriculture platform that helps farmers stay aware of every change and event in their fields. This tool created by EOS Data Analytics enables taking satellite data-based decisions and managing farmlands sustainably.
Without proper humidity levels in the ground, solarization can’t be effective. If you want the best result, the soil beneath the plastic sheeting should be saturated to at least 70% field capacity in the top layers and moist to a depth of 24 inches (60 cm). The treatment will be less effective if the humidity is sufficient or excessive.
EOSDA Crop Monitoring helps track soil moisture levels before and during solarization. The soil moisture feature shows the water content at topsoil so that growers can determine when to start the procedure and when it’s time for additional watering.
The risk of weeds remaining after solarization of the soil remains, especially for those whose root systems go deep into the ground. You should carefully monitor their occurrence, which can be done using the MSAVI index calculation available on the platform. This index enables vegetation detection even when much bare soil is in the field.
Variable rate technology enables you to accurately identify problem areas in your fields and apply fertilizer based on plant and soil needs. Farmers can determine the appropriate course of action by detecting deficiencies in certain substances. VRT promotes efficient use of resources and minimizes environmental impact.
It’s easy to keep track of all agricultural operations, including soil solarization, with EOSDA Crop Monitoring. It helps farmers stay informed about what’s happening in their fields and avoid missed or repeated treatments. By logging and tracking field activity features, the platform provides a comprehensive record of farming practices, ensuring that the farmers always know what’s happening with their plants.