How to Manage Pests
UC Pest Management Guidelines
(Reviewed 6/08, updated 6/08)
In this Guideline:
Drip fumigation with an application of chloropicrin mixed with 1,3-dichloropropene (InLine) followed by metam sodium or chloropicrin alone followed by metam sodium are the most effective registered chemical alternatives to methyl bromide/chloropicrin fumigation in strawberry for the control of pathogens, nematodes, and weed seeds. Because chloropicrin and 1,3-dichloropropene are less volatile than methyl bromide, they can be applied to raised beds through drip irrigation systems and have been shown to be as effective in controlling soilborne pathogens and most weed seeds, resulting in comparable strawberry yields.
Currently, over 55% of the California strawberry acres are drip fumigated. Drip fumigation is desirable because workers are not required to be in the field during application. However, successful drip fumigation requires adequate soil preparation, a well-designed drip irrigation system, dependable chemigation equipment, and timeliness of the process to accommodate longer plant-back time.
Uniform water distribution is necessary in a drip irrigation system and is easiest to obtain on fairly level terrain. On steep or hilly grounds, create beds that follow soil contour lines at grades that do not exceed 4 ft. uphill or 8 ft. downhill from the beginning of the drip line.
When laying the plastic tarp, remove any shanks or chisels to avoid creating channels in the soil, which can result in poor water and fumigant distribution in the soil bed. Repair any holes or tears in the plastic tarp. Avoid embossed tarps to reduce loss of fumigants through volatilization. The use of virtually impermeable film (VIF) will enhance weed control in the bed. However, VIF holds fumigants in the soil for longer periods than the standard tarp and longer plant-back time or bed ventilation for 2 weeks before planting may be required (refer to the pesticide label).
If chloropicrin or 1,3-dichloropropene is applied simultaneously with metam sodium, they react and rapidly degrade in the irrigation water. Instead, they should be applied sequentially with the first application consisting of 1,3-dichloropropene plus chloropicrin or chloropicrin alone followed 5 to 7 days later with an application of metam sodium. Applying the materials in this order helps to maximize their effectiveness because 1,3-dichloropropene and chloropicrin are most effective in drier soils whereas metam works best in moist soils.
1, 3-Dichloropropene and/or Chloropicrin. It is important to use the appropriate amount of water so that the fumigant is evenly distributed throughout the target soil treatment zone. Table 1 lists the recommended amount of water needed to fumigate various soil types to 2 feet of soil depth. For example, in a sandy loam soil 2 inches of water in the soil bed is recommended to fumigate down to 24 inches. With two drip tapes, this provides a 40-inch lateral spread as well (10 inches on each side of a tape).
If irrigation time is limited, cutting back to 1.75 inches on sandy loam soils is often acceptable because fumigants move 3 to 5 inches beyond the wetting front and control should extend down to the 2-foot depth. Although the fumigant will volatilize and move beyond the wetted zone, the best treatment appears to occur within the wetted area. If the irrigation amount is cut back to the minimum recommendation of 1.5 inches for sandy loam soils, the soil profile will be wetted down to 18 inches with 6 to 8 inches horizontal spread on both sides of each drip tape.
Drip fumigation with recommended amounts of irrigation water will provide good fumigant distribution in soil and reduce fumigant volatilization losses by increasing the amount of fumigant in the water phase and decreasing the total air space available for fumigant diffusion in soil. If too little water is used (less than 1.5 inches), the fumigant will be poorly distributed and more likely to volatize, resulting in less effective control and lower strawberry yields. In addition, with insufficient water and without an emulsifier, fumigants such as 1,3-D or chloropicrin may precipitate in the irrigation pipelines if the concentrations exceed their solubility limits of 2,000 parts per million (ppm).
Using too much water may lower the fumigant concentration in the main line below 500 ppm, which may also reduce the fumigant effectiveness. Also, beds can become unstable and collapse with excessive water application amounts. Bed stability may limit the volume or application rate of water that can be applied.
Metam Sodium or Metam Potassium. Metam sodium and metam potassium are water soluble and generate the active ingredient methyl isothiocyanate (MITC) after being applied to the soil. A minimum of one inch of water is recommended for the sequential application of metam to most soil types.
In drip fumigation, the rate of water flow and the spacing of drip tapes are critical to the even distribution of the fumigant throughout the field as well as in the soil treatment zone. While a water distribution uniformity of 90% is possible in a well designed and operated drip system, at least 80% is necessary for acceptable fumigation.
Drip tapes with a flow rate between 0.3 to 0.7 gpm (gallons per minute)/100 ft are appropriate for most strawberry soils in California (see Table 1). Low-flow drip tape requires longer application time that may become inconvenient. Avoid high-flow drip tape (greater than 0.7 gpm/100 ft) if it causes any wetting of the furrows or runoff, or if it causes the beds to collapse. High-flow tape is not commonly used in California and is not recommended except for soils with high water permeability.
To achieve adequate water distribution uniformity, the pressure in the drip tape throughout the field should not vary more than 3 psi (i.e., from 6 to 9 psi). In addition, the system must be free of leaks and clogged emitters and be flushed and pressure tested before fumigation. It is imperative to use good quality irrigation components and drip tape. Leaks cause fumigant loss and possibly odor and emissions problems.
It may be necessary to reconfigure drip tape in order to obtain good water coverage across the soil bed. For most strawberry beds (sandy loam soils), one drip tape can cover up to 10 inches on each side. Therefore, two drip tapes are recommended for drip fumigation of most strawberry beds. In the two-row strawberry beds (narrow beds with two tapes near the center), spread the tapes as far apart as possible so that the edge of the bed is covered. In the four-row strawberry beds (wide beds with two tapes close to the shoulder), move the tapes a few inches towards the center to treat the middle of the bed. A third drip tape in the center may be needed if the bed top is wider than 40 inches. A third drip tape is also recommended in wide beds on sandy and loamy sand soils where limited lateral water movement may limit fumigant distribution.
Fumigant concentration in the main line may vary from 500 to 1600 ppm, depending on the soil, fumigant type, and water application rate. Below 500 ppm, the efficacy of chloropicrin and 1,3-dichloropropene (InLine) to control soilborne pathogens may become insufficient. Also, because the solubility of chloropicrin and 1,3-D in water is less than 2000 ppm at 20°C, exceeding 1500 ppm may result in precipitation of these fumigants in the irrigation pipelines.
Fumigant concentration in water can be calculated as follows:
Table 2 shows chloropicrin concentrations as a function of application rate and water volume. A similar table can be prepared for 1,3-dichloropropene/chloropicrin (InLine) (one gallon weighs 11.2 lb or 6.57 lb 1,3-D and 3.73 lb chloropicrin) but is not provided here because 1,3-dichloropropene requires a special permit to apply.
Table 1 provides the application time for one particular type of bed configuration (40-inch wide with two drip tapes).
The fumigant cylinders are pressurized with nitrogen gas and metered directly into the irrigation pipeline or manifold. The meter can be a precision needle valve and flow meter, a needle valve and a scale, or a computer-controlled positive displacement meter. Fumigants are injected at low-flow rates and accurate calibration of injection equipment is essential for proper application. Fumigant concentration in the main line may vary from 500 to 1600 ppm, depending on the soil, fumigant type, and water application rate. Refer to the pesticide label for appropriate concentration rates.
Good fumigant mixing with water in the irrigation pipelines is essential. A static mixing device is recommended to be installed after the point of injection to thoroughly mix fumigants with water before being distributed into the irrigation system laterals and drip tape.
The irrigation system must have a standard, single-check valve, a low-pressure drain, and a vacuum-relief valve (a "chemigation" valve) upstream from the injection point to prevent possible contamination of the water source by fumigants. The fumigant injector must be equipped with a check valve to prevent water from flowing back into the fumigant tank and an automatic quick-closing valve to stop fumigant injection when water flow is interrupted or loses pressure. The fumigant automatic shut-off valve can be electrically or hydraulically activated and should be normally closed at the injector. For more information on chemigation equipment, refer to the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Agricultural Commission Office in your county.
Many of the fumigants, including chloropicrin and 1,3-dichloropropene (InLine), can damage PVC if left in the pipelines. This does not occur during application of the diluted fumigants but can occur if the lines are not well flushed at the end of the application and the fumigant settles out and accumulates in low points of the distribution system. For this reason, it is critical to flush lines at the end of each application. The required amount of water needed to flush the system can be estimated as three times the volume of the mainline and laterals. Avoid excessive flushing because it will dilute the fumigants around the drip tape.
Read and understand the fumigant label and follow County Permit Conditions before starting the fumigation. Know the symptoms and emergency treatments for exposure to the fumigants. Monitor the application system and the field during application.
UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines:
M. P. Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension Santa Cruz County