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Adding Microbes to Transplant Mix Helps Increase Crop Yields / March 28, 2000 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

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Adding Microbes to Transplant Mix Helps Increase Crop Yields

By Jesús García
March 28, 2000

Tomato and pepper farmers can now add microbes along with their transplant mix to the arsenal of production practices used to reduce yield losses caused by soilborne pathogens--including root-knot nematodes.

The microbe-amended transplant mix is being developed by Agricultural Research Service scientists at the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Fla., led by Nancy K. Burelle, in cooperation with Gustafson LLC of Plano, Texas. The transplant mix, called BioYield 213, is amended with two naturally occurring soil microorganisms--Paenobacillus macerans and Bacillus amyloliquefacien.

The mix provides the microorganisms with the environment they need to grow on the root surface of seedlings. Once this occurs, the microbes then stimulate vigorous growth and improve the health of the transplanted seedling by triggering the plant's resistance mechanisms. This research is part of an ongoing ARS effort to provide farmers with alternatives to the use of methyl bromide, an ozone-depleting soil fumigant being phased out by 2005.

Benefits continue to be observed in seedlings out in the field. Greenhouse producers can expect to grow seedlings in a shorter time period and farmers can anticipate 5 to 20 percent yield increases in tomatoes, bell peppers and even strawberries. The mix will be made commercially available to transplant producers in the fall after grower trials are concluded.

This research is helping scientists gauge the effectiveness of other alternatives to methyl bromide. For example, when this technology is combined with alternative soil treatments such as Telone II and PLANTPRO 45, levels of crop productivity approach those achieved with methyl bromide. But results also indicate that combining the new formulations with the commonly used practice of solarization--a process that creates an inhospitable environment for detrimental microbes by covering the soil with plastic to heat it, for 6 to 8 weeks in the summer--does not enhance control of root-knot nematodes.

As the phasing out of methyl bromide proceeds, this technology will provide growers with an effective, economical and sustainable alternative component that they can use with existing methods.

ARS is the chief research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Scientific contact: Nancy K. Burelle, ARS U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory, Fort Pierce, Fla., phone (561) 462-5861, fax (561) 462-5986, nburelle@saa.ars.usda.gov.

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