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Success fighting fusarium and verticillium by improving soil anyone?

Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Hi, long time no login.

So, I just found out that the sudden death of my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants is due to either Fusarium type fungi or Verticillium. They stay in the soil for 4 years, they say, in which you can't plant any nightshades. Now that sucks. My interim solution is to make hanging gardens with balcony-type containers hanging on the fence posts or wherever I can, both under the greenhouse roof (not really a greenhouse anymore, just posts with a plastic roof) and outdoors. The containers will be filled with pure worm castings and/or any other sterilized medium.
Meanwhile in the beds where I used to grow and see my nightshades die I was thinking of planting tons of mint, sage, ginger, all sorts of antifungal plants, plus other stuff that's not susceptible to those bad fungi, in order to both take advantage of that soil and fortify it year after year, hoping that next time I plant in there I won't have to worry about any pathogens like that because my soil will be super vibrant. I'm in the process of converting all those beds into hillbeds anyway.

Am I right so far? I know I am in theory, but do you guys have any more input or feedback about all this?

Thanks.

Sergio


Writing from Madhuvan, a yoga retreat/organic farm on the West Coast of Costa Rica.
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3956
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  84
I haven't experienced these diseases and it looks like nightshades are just the most vulnerable on a pretty long list. Eek!
Your plan to strengthen the soil lin as many ways as possible looks like the only real option to me; I'd be planting as wide a variety of wilt resistant things as possible, especially plants that have strong mycorrhizial relationships.
I'm kind up making it up as I go along, but it makes sense to me that building the most complex soil life web you can would be a good idea.
I couldn't find any info about any particular soil organisms that eat fusarium and verticillium, but those guys are all pretty hungry!
Brassicas are supposed to be good for soil-cleansing duties. I don't know whether plants with medicinal antifungal properties would be what you need; it may be more complex.
One thing I would definitely recommend is that you keep the mint family (which includes oregano, lemon balm and all sorts) out of the garden. They are really invasive and once you've got rid of the wilt, you could spend the rest of your life trying to get rid of the mint!
L. Jones


Joined: Apr 29, 2012
Posts: 80
Location: NW Mass Zone 4 (5 for optomists)
Mint is a nice-smelling vile weed, unless it's in a pot, or somewhere it can take over and have. It won't stay put, and it's hard to kill. Some more than others.

Catnip seeds freely, but does not seem to runner like other mint family plants, so I can tolerate that. If it's dug up ad moved (or dug up and composted) it does not come back.

Spearmint and peppermint are a mistake from 15 years ago that just won't go away, despite extensive weeding.

...and - a touch of google searching shows that fusarium (at least) affect mints. So don't go there.

Cereal (grain) crops are mentioned as a good rotation crop for managing an infestation - as is keeping weeds out of them as there are many weeds that host the nasties. You could either try growing some to the point of harvest on a garden scale to get some food use from the plots, or grow and turn under successive green manure crops. Or one, then the other.


Muddling towards a more permanent agriculture. Not after a guru or a religion, just a functional garden.
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Well, thanks a lot so far.

Here in Costa Rica mint is not invasive at all. In fact, this is the first year that it's finally thriving. Plus I love cooking with it. Isn't the point with permaculture that you mulch with weeds, and if they come back more power to you?

Anyway, for now we are kind of looking into fusarium resistant varieties, which are all genetically modified and hybrids, so not too sustainable. Meanwhile I'll work on the soil. Anything else I can do besides raised beds and worm compost?
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3956
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  84
Sergio Santoro wrote:Isn't the point with permaculture that you mulch with weeds, and if they come back more power to you?

As far as I'm concerned, it depends...I mulch with weeds that aren't determined to take over the world
In my climate mint isn't just a weed, it would own my gardens, creating an impenetrable mat and sucking up loads of water.
If it's not a problem for you, that's great!
Here's a link to some open-pollinated, wilt resistant tomatoes. (No such thing as immune, apparently)
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/Best-Tomatoes-To-Grow-By-Region.aspx?page=2
Brenda Groth
volunteer

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
    
    9
make a note that when you do replant any nightshades in that bed the best way to prevent any pathogens from killing your plants is to use a soaker system with bottom watering, rather than sprinklers or rain..

my tomato and peppers are in the greenhouse and have soaker hoses, there is no overhead watering at all..

also heavy mulches are a big help, as they keep the rain from splashing soil up onto the plant leaves.


Brenda

Bloom where you are planted.
http://restfultrailsfoodforestgarden.blogspot.com/
Jeanine Gurley
steward

Joined: May 23, 2011
Posts: 1392
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
    
  10
In my area fungus and mildew is always present. This year will be the big test to see just what permaculture techniques can do (if anything) to change that.

1. It could be a natural part of this environment and the plants that we grow are not intended to grow here - so we may always have to fight that battle.

2. I have mixed in tons of mint, it is invasive but not as mat forming as clover so I am using both the mint and the clover intermingled with everything else. Then I chop and drop. My clover actually has mildew on it right now but I am ignoring it and will wait to see what, if any, effect it has on my food crops.

3. Chammomile tea! I wish I could grow it here as it is the one thing that I buy lots of and spray on all of my plants. A spray of chammomile tea is the only thing that has allowed the cukes and other squash plants to produce fruit before fungus takes over - every year - and every property I have lived in - in the South Carolina midlands. It will be interesting to see if permaculture techniques change that in any way.

4. No supplemental water. I haven't tried that yet but am going to. I will have to buy (since I'm out of seedlings) some squash plants and a tomato for my hugel bed. This bed is never watered and I want to see if that makes a difference. I'm picking up plants today for that purpose.

5. And here is a last interesting note: I did the three sisters thing last year. The zuchinni that was growing at the base of the corn was shaded somewhat by the corn, had virtually no circulation, and it was just packed in so tight at the base of the beans and corn that I could barely get to it to harvest fruit. I don't recall if that plant EVER showed signs of wilt or fungus - it was just so hard to get to that I gave up with it but it did last a much longer time than in previous years.


1. my projects
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Hmmm... we just reached a breakthrough solution. A little drastic, but we can't be too late with the season, because we live mostly of what we grow.
I have this tank of 50% concentration Hydrogen Peroxide. I am thinking of digging the soil out of the beds, drench it in 3% solution. Fill the beds with rotten wood that has also been drenched, cover it with finer stuff and put the soil back on top, mulch it with some fermented bokashi type stuff, and plant nightshades in there, maybe with mint and chamomile all around.

We have a budding colony of red wigglers, so for this year we'll inoculate all the goodies back into the hilllbeds with worm casting tea and that bokashi stuff (which is rice hulls and saw dust fermented with molasses and panchagavya).

Shouldn't be too bad. Does anyone know if hydrogen peroxide is acidic or basic?


PS Panchagavya is a concoction of cow dung, cow urine, milk, yogurt, and clarified butter fermented in sugar water.
Alex Brands


Joined: Jul 25, 2011
Posts: 53
Hydrogen peroxide is a little bit acidic, but has very little buffering capacity, and will rapidly degrade into O2 and water, so there will be no direct effect on the soil pH.

I don't think it will be very practical to sterilize the soil this way. There will be so much in the soil that reacts with the hydrogen peroxide, including all the organic matter, that it will be difficult to reliably kill all the fusarium spores.

Alex
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
And by react you mean neutralize on the spot?
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 357
    
    1
I am ignoring the voices of "knowledge" in some ways but not in all ways.
It seemed right to separate tomatoes from each other. So I put a cage in each bed
with a number of other plants not excluding other nightshades in there with them.

Then I have a rotation plan of moving the tomatoes to a new part of the bed the
following year. I am attempting to grow marigolds where the tomatoes will be
the following year. Then in the fall I am putting a good sized pile of compost in that
spot. In the spring I just plant.

Unless a garden is covered rainfall is coming from above. I am not going to go paranoid
about overhead watering. Any plan that excludes overhead watering seems unsustainable
if it is outside. I hope to remain dependent on the natural elements as much as possible.

So I say separate them, inter-plant them and rotate them to a new spot each year. If they
are in a number of different locations with things like basil, nasturtium, cilantro, onions and
garlic mixed in there with them I like their chances.
Alex Brands


Joined: Jul 25, 2011
Posts: 53
Sergio Santoro wrote:And by react you mean neutralize on the spot?


Yes. Hydrogen peroxide is used up when it reacts with/oxidizes other molecules.
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Yes, but if I drench the soil in it, it must also kill the fungi as it permeates everything. Or you are saying the fungi will take a certain amount of time to be killed and the peroxide will be neutralized much faster?
David Miller


Joined: Sep 13, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
Have you tried a diluted water spray with baking soda? As a foliar spray I've had great success on roses with fusurium
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Really? I thought fusarium was in the soil and affected the plants by clogging the lymph vessels at the base.
David Miller


Joined: Sep 13, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Harrisonburg, VA
I should be able to tell you but cannot, a Master Gardener volunteer who used to work at Cornell gave me the tip. Apparently a Cornell professor came up with the idea, and is now marketing a "patented" version of the baking soda in water. ugh, but it worked beautifully. I put it on one of the roses and the others got some chemical garbage poison treatment that my mother insisted would work better, guess which did
Alex Brands


Joined: Jul 25, 2011
Posts: 53
Sergio Santoro wrote:Yes, but if I drench the soil in it, it must also kill the fungi as it permeates everything. Or you are saying the fungi will take a certain amount of time to be killed and the peroxide will be neutralized much faster?


That's what I'm thinking, but I don't really know how tough the spores are.


Regarding the baking soda treatment, it's hard to imagine how that would treat fusarium, since, as you say, it lives in the soil, infects plants through the roots, and colonizes the vascular tissue (lymph vessels are in animals only).

Alex
Kay Bee


Joined: Oct 10, 2009
Posts: 471
Location: Jackson County, OR (Zone 7)
hydrogen peroxide is more effective on fungal spores than on established mycelium, I believe. Except in container culture, I wouldn't recommend using it to "sterilize" soil or other growing media.

fusarium and verticillium can be persistent in soil, but like many pathogens, it is likely all around your environment. Most pathogens are opportunistic and will take advantage of stressed or compromised hosts if they are available.

While I do believe crop rotation is a good practice, I don't think it would be necessary to hold off on planting any nightshades in an affected spot for 4 years. Especially if you have otherwise healthy soil with a high organic content.

I would bet that if you rotated through a leguminous crop for a season, you would be no more likely to get fusarium or verticillium in nightshades than if they were planted in "virgin" bed. Hedging your bet with VF resistant varieties would probably be prudent too, knowing that plants are vulnerable to the disease in your climate...


"Limitation is the mother of good management", Michael Evanari

Location: Southwestern Oregon (Jackson County), Zone 7
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Yeah, we're going with some resistant hybrids, at least for this year. As far as the rotation, we've had nightshades everywhere and they all got diseased sooner or later, so there would be nowhere to rotate them to! I am confident that the worm compost will give a great aid to the generic health of the beds, especially once we convert them into hillbeds (H├╝gelkultur).
Leila Rich
steward

Joined: May 24, 2010
Posts: 3956
Location: Wellington, New Zealand. Temperate, coastal, sandy, windy,
    
  84
Sounds like you've already got hybrids, but there are many resistant OPs out there.
Leila Rich wrote:
Here's a link to some open-pollinated, wilt resistant tomatoes. (No such thing as immune, apparently)
http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/Best-Tomatoes-To-Grow-By-Region.aspx?page=2
Sandra Ellane


Joined: Nov 08, 2011
Posts: 71
Location: New Mexico high desert Zone 7a, alkaline soils. 9" average annual rainfall.
What about solarizing the soil? Downside is that it kills everything including beneficials. I've used solarization on a small scale and especially when I've planted something and it almost immediately wilted up from a bad infestation. I wouldn't use it large scale though.


http://citylivingnaturally.com
A sustainable approach to life in the city
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
What does that entail? I hope not spreading the soil of a bed thin under the sun, because the rainy season has just begun...
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 357
    
    1
Sergio Santoro wrote:What does that entail? I hope not spreading the soil of a bed thin under the sun, because the rainy season has just begun...


Nobody that knows is responding so what I have seen on it is covering the soil with clear plastic and no ventilation. You want the
soil to get so hot that it kills off the bad stuff and sacrifice the good. Trying to do it without sun is pointless as the name of the practice implies.
I don't remember how long it is supposed to be left on, but the rainy season is clearly not the time to do it.
Sandra Ellane


Joined: Nov 08, 2011
Posts: 71
Location: New Mexico high desert Zone 7a, alkaline soils. 9" average annual rainfall.
Alex is right- a lot of sun is needed. It's almost like solar cooking your soil (in fact, I guess it IS solar cooking )

Here's a link to what it entails: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74145.html

Incidentally, I used a bbq grill to cook some soil on a smaller scale- the amount is more than what can be done in the kitchen oven and without stinking up the house), but of course much less than solarizing on the ground. You can find my write up here.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6652
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
137
Be forewarned: solar cooking your soil can also kill a lot of your worms and soil microbes.

If it gets hot enough to kill the weed seeds, a lot of beneficials will also die.

EDITED to add: 'Sterile' soil is lifeless. Lifeless soil is more commonly called dirt.
Alex Ames


Joined: Feb 24, 2012
Posts: 357
    
    1
John Polk wrote:Be forewarned: solar cooking your soil can also kill a lot of your worms and soil microbes.

If it gets hot enough to kill the weed seeds, a lot of beneficials will also die.

EDITED to add: 'Sterile' soil is lifeless. Lifeless soil is more commonly called dirt.



Sergio seems to think some type of drastic measures are required. If he is mono-cropping tomatoes and peppers
my post on May 1 is a start in the right direction. What I do is more inter-cropping with companion planting ideas in
mind. It seems to me for somebody to declare soil worthless for 4 years for night shades is strong medicine. I kind of
trust the soil to be able to grow things if it is treated well. What is your opinion on a solution for Sergio?
Bob Dobbs


Joined: Jan 13, 2012
Posts: 145
    
    3
If I'm correct, trichoderma mold is pathogenic for fusarium in any case; the watermelon variety "crimson sweet" has a moderate resistance to fusarium that is caused by the root exudate being different, causing it to feed trichoderma spp which then eat the fusarium. I suppose also if you grew a bunch of trichoderma and put it on the soil it would kill at least fusarium. I know trichoderma mainly as a contamination in other sterile culture, never had to try to grow big stinking green amounts of it.
John Polk
steward

Joined: Feb 20, 2011
Posts: 6652
Location: Moving to: NE Washington USDA zone 5 Western steppes to the Rockies
    
137
I think a good step in the right direction is to mix the crops up as best as is possible. Monocropping certainly has its share of problems. The 3 crops listed are all in the nightshade family, so even though there are 3 different plants, it is still a monocrop.

The more different types of plant families you can fit into an area, the better your chances of avoiding an imbalance in your system. I would try to grow a lot of legumes, brassicas, alliums, cucurbitas, etc in the infected space for the next few years.

In my opinion, crop rotation is not very practical in small gardens/spaces. If you move all of your nightshades to a new plot 20-30 feet away, every time you take your wheel barrow, shovel, hoe, boots or gloves from the old, infected bed to the new bed, you are transporting the old problem to the new location. With that little space, the winds and insects can also transport the problems between beds.

Raising the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in containers is a very good solution for a year. Just be careful where you dump their soil at the end of the season. Most peppers do very well in containers. They have very small root systems for the size of the plant.
Sergio Santoro


Joined: Mar 27, 2011
Posts: 239
Location: Nicoya, Costa Rica
Thank you all for the replies so far. Please keep them coming.

We have an open wall greenhouse with a garden all around, and then there is my own garden with polyculture, hillbeds, mulch, etc, but we are both experiencing sudden death. The soil is not optimal in either one, so we are focusing on that right now.

 
 
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