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Researchers, growers and Industry specialists from 22 countries are sharing the latest research into the use of Brassica species, such as mustard, radish, or rapeseed, to manage soil-borne pests and weeds – a technique known as biofumigation, according to eurekalert press release.

“Brassica plants naturally release compounds that suppress pests and pathogens, principally isothiocyanates (ITCs), which most people would recognise as the ‘hot’ flavour in mustard or horseradish,” says CSIRO’s Dr John Kirkegaard.

“When ITCs are released in soil by green-manuring, soil-borne pests and pathogens can be suppressed and the yields of solanaceous vegetables such as potatoes, tomatoes and eggplants can be increased by up to 40 per cent in some cases.

“The technique is relevant to developed countries seeking alternatives to banned synthetic pesticides such as methyl-bromide, as well as poor farmers in developing countries who often have few alternatives for controlling serious diseases in their crops,” Dr Kirkegaard says.

“It can provide economic and social benefits, as improved crop yields lead to increased incomes, as well as a range of environmental and health benefits from a reduced reliance on fumigants and pesticides.”

Using brassicas to manage soil-borne pests is not new, but modern science is providing new insights and techniques to enhance the reliability of the effect as part of an integrated pest control strategy. Brassicas can also provide other benefits to the soil as green manures.

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