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Using the sun and agricultural waste to control pests

United States

Farmers spend a lot of time and money controlling weeds and other pests, and often have to turn to chemical fumigants to keep the most destructive pests at bay. Farmers also wrestle with what to do with low-value byproducts of crop production, such as skin, seeds and hulls from fruit, vegetable and nut processing.

What if those agricultural waste streams could generate alternatives to chemical fumigants and make farming more productive, profitable and environmentally friendly?

Maybe they can. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, are encouraged by early results from collaborative experiments with "biosolarization," a process that combines the sun's heat with soil amendments to manage weeds and other soil-borne pests.

"It looks promising," said food science and technology professor Christopher Simmons, who is testing biosolarization with various crops and working with farmers throughout the state. "We still have a lot of work to do, but biosolarization is showing real potential as a safe, sustainable way to control pests while improving crop quality and yield."