A-Gas Rural
22 December 2017

Soil Fumigation – Stepping Back from the Financial Abyss


Background

About Hoang
Vietnamese eggplant grower, Hoang, had been producing eggplants in poly greenhouses for six years in Adelaide, South Australia. Hoang traditionally grows crop in 6 greenhouses that are each 2000m² with crop yields of 5kg/m².

About A-Gas Rural
A-Gas Rural, part of A‑Gas Australia, specialises in the supply of fumigation chemicals, application equipment and services to the agricultural sector. The company has 25 years of experience in all facets of fumigation service and practice, focusing on supplying sustainable alternatives to the ozone depleting, Methyl Bromide. A-Gas Rural is also involved in supplying fumigation equipment and monitoring devices, as well as designing and implementing fumigation systems.

Challenge

Hoang’s business was being incapacitated by the extreme impact of the damaged roots of his crops. The damage to the crops was causing reduced crop yield and crop longevity and increasing input costs because of the need for more water and fertiliser.

Due to the damage and the increasing costs being caused by the unknown source, Hoang was facing the prospect of closing his business and reached out to A-Gas Rural for a solution.

“I needed a service that would have minimal impact on my crop production in the short-term but could offer a powerful solution that would future-proof the health of the soil,” comments Hoang, “I selected A-Gas Rural’s soil fumigation solution because I had heard of their success in greenhouse crop production and their first-class prescription fumigation capability.”

Solution

A-Gas Rural assessed the greenhouse soil with its DNA soil testing technology to determine the issues (such as diseases and pests) that were affecting the soil. It was found that the soil held the highest levels of root knot nematodes that the A-Gas Rural team had ever come up against, at 37,000 per gram of soil (normal levels should be 1,000-4,000 per gram of soil).

Nematodes, microscopic worms that move between soil particles and on plant material, pierce the cell walls of plants and ingest its contents. The nematodes stylet releases enzymes that break down the cells within the plant. Nematodes are the greatest threat to horticultural crops on the NAP.

“We were shocked to see the impact the nematodes were having on Hoang’s crop and identified that a quick turnaround was needed to save his business,” comments Ben Dewit, Operations Manager at A-Gas Rural, “The team quickly assessed the most suitable solution for this case and worked hard with the client to ensure there was minimum disruption to his crop production and income flow.”

The approach was taken to apply A-Gas Rural’s soil fumigants to assess if this could be effective. The soil was tested using a DNA testing procedure that A-Gas Rural developed with the nematode and fungal pathogens numbers quantified. The test results indicated that Telone C-35 needed to be applied at 90g/m² to determine whether the soil pests and diseases could be brought under control so that levels were below economic damage levels. The fumigant was applied using A-Gas Rural’s custom equipment and the soil was left for two weeks to enable the fumigant to take effect. At the end of the two-week period, no residues of the fumigant were left in the soil. 

Results

Two weeks after the soil had been treated with soil fumigants, Hoang replanted the eggplant seedlings. The results showed that the water and fertiliser used by the crop was reduced by 25% (water) and 30% (fertiliser) respectively. The crop yield more than tripled from 5kg/m² to a substantial 18kg/m².

“We were able to implement changes that not only restored Hoang’s crop production in the short-term, but also contributed to his long-term business goals,” comments Ben Dewit, “Our main focus was resolving the problem as quickly as possible and ensuring the most suitable method was used to solve the issues in front of us.”

This fumigation was achieved in a two-week period; there was no loss of crop production time due to the long soil treatment periods.

All input costs have decreased due to the plants being healthier. As a result of the project, Hoang’s profits greatly increased, and he no longer faces the immediate prospect of closing down his business. This has enabled Hoang to purchase a second farm within the same 12 months as the fumigation of the original crop.

“After seeing the success of the project, I have rethought the way I approach growing. I would now only plant crops if fumigation had occurred first,” comments Hoang, “I am extremely pleased with the service provided by A-Gas Rural, they have contributed to transforming my entire business.”

Conclusion

A-Gas Rural’s soil DNA testing can prescriptively identify pests and diseases in soil which enables the correct fumigation to be applied at the ideal rate to maximise soil pest and disease suppression.

A-Gas Rural has the tools to rejuvenate soil that was previously seen as a lost cause in terms of being agriculturally productive due to soil pests and diseases. This capability is vital, especially in places where land is scarce or has been damaged by poor farming practices in the past.

“We are extremely proud of the results from this project, the hard work of all involved and the results achieved for Hoang,” comments Ben Dewit, “The product has changed the future landscape for growers like Hoang and we look forward to our continued work and similar successful outcomes for our clients.”