If you're like many greenhouse growers, you're highly aware that the market for organically grown vegetables has evolved from a small, fringe entity to a mainstream consumer preference. You may want to join the party but have serious reservations about certain obstacles to organic greenhouse production. For instance, if you live in an area where atmospheric humidity levels are typically high during the growing season, you're probably very familiar with the fact that fungal pathogens can quickly ruin a crop. Because certified organic growers are very limited on what types of fungicides they can use on their crops, you're probably also understandably reluctant to give organic growing a try. However, strategies exist to minimize the presence of fungal pathogens in the organic greenhouse production of vegetables. The following are five things you can do to keep fungal pathogen levels down.
Minimize Overhead Irrigation
Overhead irrigation is a major culprit when it comes to establishing an optimal environment for the development of fungal pathogen populations, so consider having a drip irrigation system installed instead. As an added bonus, you'll probably experience lower water bills as the result of using drip irrigation because these systems deliver water directly to the root zones of the plants, therefore minimizing water waste.
Thoroughly Clean Your Greenhouse Before Planting a New Crop
Fungal pathogens are opportunistic, and spores often lie dormant and inactive until circumstances are just right for them to flourish. Removing all vegetative debris and thoroughly cleaning all surfaces with a bleach-based cleaning solution helps get rid of any latent fungal spores that may be hanging around the environment.
Use Horizontal Airflow
The purpose of horizontal airflow is to keep temperatures and humidity consistent throughout the entire greenhouse space. Fungal colonies tend to develop quickly in pockets where condensation exists. Horizontal airflow also helps keep foliage and greenhouse surfaces dry.
Practice Extreme Vigilance
You and your greenhouse staff should be thoroughly educated on identifying the signs of fungal pathogens so that your crops can be checked for them daily. All affected plant material must be removed immediately to prevent the spread of the pathogen.
Purchase Resistant Seed Varieties
Because organic growers aren't allowed to use seeds that have been treated with synthetically manufactured fungicides, you should hedge your bets by planting resistant seed varieties. Your local research university is the best source of information on which plant pathogens are most prevalent in your area so that you can seek out seeds with applicable resistance.
If you are interested in organic greenhouse production, talk to an agriculture supplier in your area.