Mustard has a green way to control pests

July 26th, 2008 - 4:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Sydney, July 26 (IANS) Researchers will put centuries-old farming practices like use of mustard, radish or rapeseed species under the scanner, to eliminate soil-borne pests and weeds. “Brassica plants naturally release compounds that suppress pests and pathogens, principally isothiocyanates (ITCs), recognised “as the ‘hot’ flavour in mustard or horseradish,” said Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation’s John Kirkegaard.

“When ITCs are released in soil by green-manuring, soil-borne pests and pathogens can be suppressed and yields of vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants can be increased by up to 40 percent in some cases,” he added.

“The technique is relevant to developed countries seeking alternatives to banned synthetic pesticides such as methyl-bromide, as well as poor farmers in developing countries who often have few alternatives for controlling serious diseases in their crops,” Kirkegaard said.

Using brassicas to manage soil-borne pests is not new, but modern science is providing new insights and techniques to enhance the reliability of the effect as part of an integrated pest control strategy. Brassicas can also provide other benefits to the soil as green manures.

Australian scientists are at the forefront of this area of research, in projects on tropical vegetable production systems in north Queensland and the Philippines, supported by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

These findings will be presented at the Third International Bio-fumigation Symposium in Canberra. It will comprise three days of scientific and industry presentations and practical application of bio-fumigation technology.

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