UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — In an effort to boost the profitability and sustainability of organic specialty crop productions, a team of scientists is improving and optimizing a method for controlling soilborne pests and pathogens and promoting soil health that prevents oxygen from entering the soil.
Anaerobic soil disinfestation — often referred to as ASD — is the process of limiting oxygen from the soil to reduce pests and pathogens. ASD is important because, in Pennsylvania for example, much of the production of organic specialty crops such as strawberries and vegetables occurs in unheated greenhouse-like structures known as high tunnels. These systems help commercial farmers to extend their growing season and improve the profitability and productivity of their operations. But because soils beneath high tunnels support an intensive cropping system and are shielded from freezing temperatures, undesirable bacterial and fungal pathogens and pests often accumulate in the soil.