Field soilless culture as an alternative to soil methyl bromide for tomato and pepper

George J. Hochmuth, Cesario Jasso_Chaverri, Robert C. Hochmuth, Suzanne C. Stapleton, Steven A. Sargent, Elizabeth M. Lamb, Mark A. Wade


Soil fumigation with methyl bromide is an important agricultural practice in the United States for controlling soilborne diseases, insects, nematodes, and weeds. The use of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant in agriculture will be forbidden in the U.S. after 2005, because of its negative effect on the stratospheric ozone layer. With the impending loss of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant, there has been much effort placed on searching for alternative soil treatment systems. One approach to dealing with the loss of methyl bromide, for selected crops, might be the use of cultural systems that do not depend on the native soil. Soilless culture of vegetables is commonplace in greenhouse production around the world, and the same production system might also be adaptable to outdoor culture of certain vegetables. Research on outdoor soilless culture of crops has been conducted at the University of Florida North Florida Research and Education Center in Live Oak, Florida, for several years. In the spring of 2001, research was conducted to compare tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) and pepper (Capsicum annuum L) in an outdoor soilless culture system with the standard plastic mulched, methyl bromide fumigated soil-based system. Two basic production systems were compared: 1) the standard tomato and pepper cultural system and 2) soilless production using perlite-filled lay flat bags. 'Sunpride' tomato and 'Brigadier' pepper were planted. The irrigation water and nutrients were delivered to plants in both systems by drip irrigation. This paper describes our experiences with outdoor soilless culture of tomato and pepper and summarizes the benefits and challenges with soilless culture for commercial-scale use.


lycopersicon; esculentum; capsicum annuum; methyl bromide; perlite; field culture; drip irrigation; hydroponics

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283