Strausbaugh, Carl A. Kimberly Research and Extension Center, University of Idaho, Kimberly, Idaho.
Last reviewed:January 2020
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A chemical or physical process that results in the death of soil organisms. This control method affects many organisms, even though the elimination of only specific weeds, fungi, bacteria, viruses, nematodes, or pests is desirable. Even if complete sterilization is achieved, it is short lived since organisms will recolonize this biological vacuum quite rapidly. Soil sterilization can be achieved through both physical and chemical means. Physical control measures include steam and solar energy. Chemical control methods include herbicides and fumigants. Dielectric heating and gamma irradiation are used less frequently as soil sterilization methods. Composting can be used to sterilize organic materials mixed with soil, but it is not used for the sterilization of soil alone. Soil sterilization is used in greenhouse operations, the production of high-value or specialty crops, and the control of weeds.
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