Lipka, M.1; Infante-Casella2
1Student Intern, Rowan College of South Jersey, Clarksboro, NJ, 08020
2Agricultural Agent/Professor, Rutgers Cooperative Exension, Clarksboro, NJ, 08020


Farmers operating a vineyard and winery in Southern New Jersey adopted a unique cultivation system for weed control and eliminated all herbicides in the vineyard. As a result their observations showed increased vine health, increased grape fruit quality and anecdotally reported improved wine quality. The growers also observed, an increase in earthworm populations in field soils, improved soil health and better overall plant health. They attributed soil and plant improvements to an increase in beneficial soil microbes. Soil fungi and bacterium are both part of the soil environment. Farming practices can either harm or accentuate populations of soil microbes. Farming practices that reduce or eliminate all fungi and bacterium in soil may make plants more susceptible to soil pathogens and other diseases. Beneficial microbes have many functions to aid in plant growth and help maintain a beneficial soil environment. Soil fungi and soil bacterium not only act as decomposers, but also influence water dynamics, act as nutrient stabilizers, and can be plant disease suppressors; all of which are functions essential to keeping plants healthy. Of course, there are harmful fungi and bacterium, but typically all fungi and bacterium are reduced or eliminated with some production practices, and without much after though of what is happening in the soil environment. Beneficial soil fungi and beneficial bacterium currently have not become widely cultured for crop production in agricultural soils. Farmers using mainly synthetic chemicals for crop production and pest control have not yet broadly realized the impacts on soil microbes or the ability of beneficial soil microbes to naturally control some plant pests. More research is needed to determine if adoption of alternative weed control strategies, void of synthetic herbicides, can improve soil and plant health by encouraging microbial populations to flourish in crop soils.

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