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The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture
vegetable production

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Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation

Anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD), as the name implies, is a process of
disinfesting soil by creating anaerobic soil conditions with the
incorporation of easily decomposable soil amendments, covering with
plastic (polyethylene) mulch, and irrigating to saturation to begin a two to
six-week treatment period prior to planting certain high value crops,
such as fruits or vegetables. ASD was developed independently in
Japan and the Netherlands in the 1990s and 2000s, and more recently
has been researched as a potential fumigation alternative in the United
States. ASD has also been referred to as biological soil disinfestation,
soil reductive sterilization, reductive soil disinfestation and anaerobically-mediated
biological soil disinfestation.

During ASD treatment, the easily available carbon from the organic soil
amendments used in ASD provides a substrate (food source) for rapid
growth and respiration of soil microbes. As a consequence, available
soil oxygen is reduced as soil is irrigated to fill soil pore space and
plastic mulch is used to limit gas exchange between the soil and the
ambient atmosphere above the mulch. This creates anaerobic
conditions that persist until the carbon source is utilized or soil moisture
content drops (typically one to two weeks). Anaerobic decomposition of
the added soil amendment allows many toxic byproducts to
accumulate such as organic acids (e.g., acetic and butyric acids) and
other volatile compounds that serve to decrease soilborne pests.
Preliminary research has also indicated that ASD treatment enhances
populations of beneficial biocontrol microbes in soils, which also likely
play a role in the effectiveness of treatment.