soil borne diseases

Learn how to identify the main soil diseases

Soil is an essential element for agriculture. It is the foundation for all your work and therefore it is essential to give it appropriate care. After all, its quality directly impacts the productivity of the crop. On the other hand, the lack of adequate management can generate soil disease, which could compromise the entire crop.

To avoid this, read this article that will highlight the main pests and soil diseases. Also, learn what the best practices to prevent these problems are, especially in sugarcane, corn, soybean, and coffee crops!

What are soil diseases?

The soil is nothing more than the surface that covers the earth’s crust. It is composed of minerals such as loam, sand, stones, clay, and organic matter. It turns out that if there is no proper care, this planting area can become a vector for diseases and pests that can contaminate the entire crop.

Thus, it becomes a fertile ground for the development and propagation of insects and fungi that attack the crop, impact its growth and/or damage the plants. The symptoms are very varied, depending on the causative agent, plant vigour and environmental conditions.

The worst is that, in general, after contamination, the pathogen remains present in the soil for a long time. Thus, its removal is not always easy. Therefore, prevention is always the best way. But before we focus on solutions, let’s learn a little more about soil diseases.

What are the main soil diseases?

To better understand the action of these pathogens, we will divide them into two groups: pests and fungal diseases.

Soil pests

Here, we highlight the insects that damage plants, whether they are in their adult phase or as larvae.

Elasmopalpus lignosellus

It causes great damage to peanut, bean, corn, soybean, wheat, and rice crops in a short period of time. The larvae attack the stem of the plant, preventing its growth. The plant withers and dies.

When the infestation is constant, it is recommended to apply agricultural pesticides to seeds and, during dry periods, in the planting area.

Sternechus subsignatus

It is a type of beetle that mainly attacks soy crops. In their adult phase, they leave the ground to feed and develop before they start flying. Because they have this ability to move, they spread very quickly in the planting area.

Females dig a small hole in the stem of the plant to lay their eggs. Then the larva develops inside the stem.

As the insect scrapes the stem of the plant, weakening its supporting tissues, the plants can easily break in occurrences of rain or wind, reducing its productive potential.

Phyllophaga cuyabana

Also known as beetle larva, it lives in the soil and consumes the roots of various types of crops, such as beans, strawberries, corn, soybeans, and vegetables in general. Because of this, the plant may not develop or, depending on its stage, have its productivity compromised.

After it spreads, its removal is very difficult, even with the use of pesticides. One of the recommendations is the adoption of green fertilizer, such as crotalaria, which can be planted before other crops. The larva feeds on its roots and dies before attacking the next plantation.

Hypothenemus hampei

It can be seen in any coffee-producing region of the world. It attacks the fruit regardless of the maturation stage, even if it is already dry. As a result, there is a loss of weight and grain quality. The beans are bored in an amount proportional to the level of pest infestation, causing coffee to lose its commercial value.

Fungal diseases

As the name suggests, the pathogen here are fungi, often microscopic organisms and, like parasites, attach themselves to animals and vegetables to extract their food. Consequently, they can cause diseases and deformations in other living beings. Here are some that affect the main cultures.

Rhizoctonia solani

It rots the roots at the beginning of the development of various types of crops, such as soybeans, corn, cotton, peanuts, rice, sorb, among others. Thus, it impairs the development of the plant, influencing the pigmentation of the leaves and even causing necrosis of the vascular tissue of the vegetable, which prevents the flow of sap inside the plant.

Colletotrichum dematium var. truncata

It mainly attacks soy. It remains in the soil and causes the death of younger plants. The soy pods become darkened and twisted, may fall and have their number vastly reduced. The same can happen with the seeds.

Ceratocystis paradoxa

This disease affects sugarcane, among other crops. Through natural or bruised plant openings, the fungus enters and colonizes the plant. If the soil is contaminated, it becomes the gateway to the body. As a consequence, there is low germination in the crop and the death of new sprouts.

The diagnosis is given by observing a reddish colour inside the cane, which exudes a pineapple odour. Since the fungus thrives in high humidity, it is often found in places of lower temperatures, with clay and soggy soils.

Of course, soil pests and diseases are not restricted to those mentioned here. Each culture will have more common occurrences. However, there are practices that help reduce the impact of these problems substantially.

How to prevent and remedy soil diseases?

There are several pesticides that fight pathogens scattered in the crop. However, this is a measure to remedy damage that is already installed and will represent additional costs and requires a lot of care to maintain food security. Thus, to prevent the proliferation of soil diseases, actions need to be taken before planting, still in the planning phase. Consider the following main practices.

Crop rotation

Monoculture is one of the causes of the development of pests and crop diseases. Diversity generates a natural balance that preserves the interaction between the various environmental organisms. In this context, many adopt a crop rotation system—one of the main practices of no-tillage.

For example, by replacing a crop that serves as food for a given pest with another type of crop, the disease vector tends to weaken or even disappear. In addition, crop rotation helps soil structure, reposes nutrients and strengthens plants to resist disease.

Choice of the most suitable crop

It is always necessary to be aware of the most recommended variety for the region, the chosen season and the climatic conditions. Thus, ensure that you understand what the main problems faced by the crop are and select more resistant crops.

Soil preparation

Some factors related to the soil itself may favour the appearance and development of pathogens, such as high temperatures and humidity. Therefore, before planting, treat the soils that are poorly drained, compact and unbalanced in nutrients.

Origin and treatment of seeds

The seeds need to be treated with pesticides that can contribute to their resistance to the pathogens present in the soil. Thus, you avoid contaminating the soil with diseases that did not existing there before. Also, buy seeds from reliable suppliers.

Adoption of new technologies

There are several technologies that help in planning, monitoring and controlling of application of pesticides in the planting area. This is a trend known as precision agriculture.

Geo-referencing equipment and software, for example, can contribute to soil sampling, by mapping the entire field for more efficient treatment, either for fertilization or for the application of pesticides for pest control.

Soil quality is fundamental for your crop’s productivity. So, make sure to take care of this element at all stages of production to control soil diseases and maintain your business’s profitablity.

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