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Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology
The Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food & Environment
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

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Utilization of Soil Solarization

Publication: Grinstein, A. 1992. Introduction of a new agricultural technology - soil solarization - in Israel. Phytoparasitica 20.Suppl.:127S-131S.


Soil solarization is a non-chemical method for soil disinfestation. Theoretically, Israel is one of the ideal sites for the use of this technology. It has been shown that the introduction of soil solarization is highly crop-dependent and is inversely correlated with the availability of alternative soil disinfestation methods. Solarization has been easily introduced for crops with no reliable and recommended soil disinfestation methods for conventional farming and in cases where this technique is inexpensive. Its introduction to crops for which other soil disinfestation techniques are established, or to less intensive crops, has been much slower.

Apart from objective reasons for not using solarization, e.g. plots which are in use during the suitable season for solarization or low efficacy against specific soilborne pests, there are problems that need to be solved. These are related to technology and technology diffusion, to the price of the plastic sheeting and to the priority given by farmers to non-chemical methods.

Being non-chemical by definition, solarization has a definite advantage in the framework of non-chemical cropping systems like organic and biological farming and as an actual and prospective alternative method to chemical soil fumigation. The currently licensed and recommended fumigants, especially those used on edible crops, may be limited in their scope or even banned, as occurred recently with a series of conventional nematicides. There is no doubt that crops and products from solarized land could have a net marketing advantage in the light of public preference for health products vis-a-vis chemically treated crops, even when the latter satisfy the internationally accepted tolerance levels for pesticide residues. Solarization is comparable to integrated pest management and biological control systems. These systems and techniques are complex, often more expensive than the equivalent chemical control methods, and are backed only by public R&D organizations. The next step in the promotion of solarization should involve both policy-makers as well as extension field staff and extension-associated tools and methods, mass media, publications, videotapes, and other training material for a massive flow of pertinent information to a large segment of the farming population. In such a way, both awareness of the method, as well as the required skills, equipment, cost information and other considerations would be made fully avail able to prospective users. These step will lead to a much larger use of soil solarization. This is especially needed in light of many old and new restrictions on pesticides.