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Soil sterilisation - steam?

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Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 11 8:46 am    Post subject: Soil sterilisation - steam?  Reply with quote    

I have a major problem in our large greenhouse with broomrape on the roots of tomatoes. Research suggests either large regular applications of chemicals or heating the soil to kill the tiny seeds. The green house is 4 meters by 8 meters. I could delay putting in our tomatoes next year by keeping them in pots for a bit while trying to heat the soil with sheets of clear plastic, or should I look at trying something else like steaming it in bags.... We lost nearly all our crop this year. Unfortunately we didn't recognise it the first year and we must have lots of seeds in the soil now.


Joined: 10 Sep 2011
Posts: 847
Location: Notts.
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 11 12:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

As broomrape is parasitic weed it needs host to feed itself to survive.
Fortunately I've never had to come across this trouble...I don't envy you.
First of all..plastic sheeting is never able to create enough heat underneath it that it would sterilize soil..that I'm sure of.
As for other methods..you would need to have the soil completely yield free at least for a year and do several sessions of spray/treatment during growing season to get top of it. Even if you delay your planting..broom rape will just wait until they have host available.
Yes..weedkiller treatment is possible..if you are happy using chemicals...either way you will need to provide a host plant for the weed to emerge for spraying..or you could try to tackle it with cultural method. This is the one I'm not 100% sure as I've never dealt with broomrape but in theory is should work.
Cabbage and beans can be host for it so...in theory..if you were to sow cabbage seeds on soil..as they germinate and grow..broom rape should emerge too..in this stage (before flowering and setting new seeds) you could destroy the whole greenery that is growing on soil..rip it all up and burn ..and repeat the treatment. You would need to repeat this throughout growing season several times so that each time more and more of the weedseeds are used up from soil. I suspect it would take more than one growing season if this problem has been existing for while..
Is hirering soil sterilizer a option?..those are not cheap..nor it is any faster option..and trouble is that you kill all good things in soil in same process...and you've got quite amount of soil to deal with..so you would need proper equipment to deal with it..microwaved soil bags are not option in this case.
Trouble with this weed is that it can stay 'hibernating' in soil for years waiting right host plant to arrive so there just is no quick fix for it.
How about digging the soil out of borders..say down to 40cm or so..and replacing it with fresh..you could then set bonfire on top of the old soil to kill all the weedseeds.
If some seeds would survive and new growth appear..it propably would take few years before the trouble is as bad as with the old soil..you could perharps cope with regular soil changes when things get to that stage again...+ if you can keep pulling the 'flower heads' off before any seeds are released..who knows..with cultural methods you could get top of it..or at least keep the growth in manageable level and still get edible crops.


Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 11 3:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

It seems to be endemic in our soil, we built another greenhouse last year and it immediately came up there. It is also parasitic on tobacco which is the main crop here...
It seems that the only way to get rid of it is to keep removing the flowers before seeding, that being the only bit of the plant that appears above the soil level.

We also have colorado beetle, couch grass that is massive compared with the uk version and a nasty creeping elm that spreads like lighting with suckers the size of my wrist. Oh joy....


Joined: 08 May 2006
Posts: 8324

PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 11 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Hmmm, doesn't make Bulgaria very appealing, does it?!


Joined: 10 Sep 2011
Posts: 847
Location: Notts.
PostPosted: Sat Dec 10, 11 6:03 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Oh dear...you have some troubles around..I'm out of ideas and advise..
Suppose you have to feel like mass murderer on rampage with weeds..keep hacking them down..cut the heads off as soon as they pop up..torch them..set fire on..bury DEEP..dig them up and let them DIE on surface untill TRULY DEAD..poison them.. ..
..and when you are really..REALLY bad mood, go and do some bashing..get scythe and show who's the mama..
If nothing else works..EAT THEM.. ..couch roots are apprantely edible..

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