Sensorex ORP sensors have been adopted by a group of researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz to develop a solution that eliminates the need for toxic chemicals during strawberry production. Over the last decade, Sensorex ORP sensors have monitored oxidation reduction potential, a key soil parameter, in a series of field and pot experiments investigating the use of anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) as an alternative to harmful fumigants.

Protecting High Value Crops

California produces approximately 90 percent of the strawberries grown in the United States. Currently, the production methods used most predominantly require harmful fumigants that can sterilize the soil. ASD, a natural and biological alternative, can reduce or eliminate the use of soil fumigation.

ASD offers a non-chemical approach to controlling pests such as soil borne plant pathogens, plant-parasitic nematodes, and weeds in specialty crop systems. In ASD, easily decomposable soil amendments are incorporated into the soil, which is then covered with plastic (polyethylene), mulch, and irrigated. As the soil amendments decompose, they produce byproducts such as organic acids and other volatile compounds that are toxic to soil borne pests. ASD treatment can also encourage the growth of beneficial biocontrol microbes.

Soil Monitoring

Quantifying ORP is critical to monitoring the anaerobic condition of the soil. Professor Carol Shennan, Ph.D., Associate Researcher Joji Muramoto, Ph.D., and their team at UC Santa Cruz use Sensorex ORP sensors for this measurement. The sensors are used both in laboratory experiments and large scale field trials where strawberries are being grown. In the land plots, sensors are buried in the soil, and data is transmitted back to a central data logger.

Sensorex ORP sensors provide reliable, accurate measurement over a range of +/-2000mV (or range of ORP meter). Constructed with durable, chemical resistant bodies, the sensors can withstand temperatures of up to 80°C as well as pressures of up to 50 psig. A recessed design protects the measurement surface for long service life. A range of additional options are available to customize sensors to application needs.

The research conducted by the UC Santa Cruz team has demonstrated the efficacy of ASD as a viable alternative to soil fumigation. The research is ongoing to further optimize the process for strawberry and other high-value crop production systems. Continued monitoring of the soil’s ORP using Sensorex’s sensors will be a key part of this study.

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