U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists trying to help Florida growers find a replacement for methyl bromide are studying an alternative soil treatment that uses molasses as one of its ingredients.
Researchers with USDA's Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are examining whether a cropping system that uses molasses to stimulate microbial activity could be used to replace the popular fumigant. They also are studying recently developed fumigants.
The work, presented at the recent Annual International Research Conference on Methyl Bromide Alternatives and Emissions Reductions, supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security. ARS is USDA's principal intramural scientific research agency.
Farmers have been using methyl bromide since the 1930s to control a broad spectrum of nematodes, pests and pathogens. But because methyl bromide depletes the earth's stratospheric ozone layer, growers worldwide are being required to find a replacement. That's a tall order in Florida, where the sandy soils limit organic alternatives and the mild winters serve as a safe harbor for many nematodes, weeds and pathogens.