Conclusion For Soil Solarization

Many definitions of sustainable agriculture are reported by literature, but all are related to the basic concept of a profitable crop production with no environmental pollution and depletion of farm and natural resources, including effects on soil, water, and biodiversity (Doran 2002; Francis et al. 2006). Soil solarization seems to fit the fundaments of sustainable agriculture as providing an effective and environmentally safe control of many soilborne pests and more competitive market positions and higher prices to pesticide-free products.

Benefit/cost analysis demonstrated that solarization can also be more convenient than other control techniques, due to its lower costs (Yaron et al. 1991; Elmore 1991a; Bell 1998; Esperancini et al. 2003; Hasing et al. 2004). Potential integration of this technique within more complex pest management strategies is another main advantage of soil solarization, as they are technically combinable with most other available control methods.

However, climate, season, and cropping system specificity still represent serious limits for a further diffusion of soil solarization practice, as effective results are mostly provided by summer application to specific cropping systems, i.e., greenhouse and field horticulture and fruit orchards, in warm climates. Adversely, solar-ization is less effective and more expensive in cooler regions and not suitable for rain-fed agronomic crops in large areas.

Further limits of solarization commonly reported by literature, such as a difficult and expensive final disposal of plastic films or a treatment duration generally too long for intensive cropping systems, may be overcome, through an improvement of plastic mulches technique. Disposal of plastic residues can be favored by using biodegradable films, as well as the use of high thermal efficiency films or a combination with other control tools may shorten the length of the solarization period. Moreover, combined treatments may also improve results of heating treatment in deeper soil layers, where the thermal effect is normally weaker or completely absent.

Future perspectives for the use of stand-alone solarization will be probably represented by application in greenhouse cropping systems, where high crop values and environmental benefits highly enhance economic convenience of this technique. Based on similar considerations, a great potential for solarization application can also be expected for disinfestation of seedbeds and planting substrates in nurseries (Chaube and Dhananjay 2003), or for preplant disinfestation from fungal pathogens and nematodes in greenhouse or fruit orchards (Jensen and Buszard 1988; Stapleton et al. 1989; Duncan et al. 1992; Rieger et al. 2001). Moreover, soil solarization can also be a valuable soil disinfestation tool for irrigated agriculture in field conditions, when specific crop pest problems do not allow use of pesticides

(because of lack of registration, crop tolerance, and hazardous or expensive application) and no other control tool is available, or when heating treatment can solve more than one pest problem (Elmore 1990). Finally, situations where chemical soil disinfestants are forbidden or not advisable, i.e., in farms organically managed or too close to urban or residential areas, can represent further preferential applications of soil solarization in the field.

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