By Clint Thompson
Despite stringent regulatory requirements and high costs, fumigation remains a vital tool in a specialty crop producers’ toolbox when managing certain pests.
“The reality is there’s just some pests and some crops where that is our most reliable tactic,” said Josh Freeman, an agronomist and regional manager with TriEst Ag Group. “Consider peppers for example. You have to manage weeds, primarily nutsedge, and we don’t have a herbicide program that can do that. Certain cucurbits are the same way, like watermelons. If you have a really bad nutsedge problem, we don’t have a herbicide program that does a great job.”
Freeman spoke about the strengths and weaknesses associated with fumigation during the Suwanee Valley Watermelon Institute meeting in Fanning Springs last Thursday, Dec. 1.
Fumigation is the process of releasing fumigants to suffocate and kill certain pests within the soil. These include soil-borne pests, weeds and nematodes. Southeast growers who produce high value plasticulture crops like strawberries, tomatoes and peppers implement fumigation despite the high costs.
“It’s expensive, and the reality is, they’re potentially dangerous chemicals if they’re not handled properly. Any grower that’s dealt with them knows you have to respect them,” Freeman said. “The regulatory hurdle for a grower that’s never used fumigation before … once you do it the first time it’s not bad, but doing it the first time, it’s a major hurdle to get over. I think costs and the regulatory environment around fumigants are the biggest cons.”
But it has proven to be extremely successful. Freeman said the University of Florida conducted research over the last three years with the fumigant Telone in sweet potatoes. The crop produced the most yields when Telone was used.
“There’s more regulatory scrutiny than what there probably has been. Those are the headwinds for fumigation. But as far as pound for pound, it offers the best control strategies we have for certain pests, weeds, nematodes and things like that,” Freeman said.