Date of Award

6-2019

Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Plant Protection Science

Department

Horticulture and Crop Science

Advisor

Ashraf Tubeileh

Abstract

Soil-borne pests and pathogens, such as Verticillium dahliae, can devastate a wide range of annual and perennial crops. Current management options for organic production are limited and sustainable management of pathogens, weeds, and arthropods is important for staying profitable and reducing the use of harmful chemicals. Organic soil amendments play an important role in supplying some of the nutritional needs of vegetable crops and improving soil structure, while also contributing to pest control. The objective of this research was to determine the effects of grape and olive-based composts on soil pathogen load, arthropod communities, and weed biomass and diversity. Field experiments were conducted in both organic and conventionally grown bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) systems during the summer growing season of 2018 on the Cal Poly campus in San Luis Obispo, California. Four different organic amendment treatments were tested including: olive based compost, grape based compost, dairy manure compost, and plant waste compost. Abundance of the fungal pathogen Verticillium dahliae was assessed from composite soil samples collected at several time points throughout the growing season. Olive, grape, and plant waste composts all displayed significant reduction of V. dahliae abundance between two to eight weeks post application of treatment when compared to the control. Insufficient evidence was found correlating farm management type with V. dahliae abundance after adjusting for treatment and time. Total dry weed biomass was assessed after one month of unhindered growth. The organic amendments tested appeared to alter weed species composition but not overall biomass though no significant differences were found. The soil arthropods symphylans and collembolans were sampled throughout the growing season, significant trends in population were found over time but not across treatments. This research demonstrates how agricultural waste-based compost amendments have potential as tools in pest management.

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