H-SANTA MARIA

May 15, 2013 5:19 PM by Cameron Polom, KSBY News

Molasses and rice bran a more natural fumigant for crops

Environmental concerns over chemical fumigants used for strawberry crops have led to discussions on banning the chemicals as soon as 2015, meaning farmers will have to find an alternative way to protect their crops from diseases or risk a significant reduction in production.

When farmers are seeking the best and newest farming technologies they turn to one man.

"Every day, a lot of technologies and products come into the market, like I said. Farmers cannot be losing money trying to evaluate each and every one," said crop scientist Dr. Surendra Dara.

That's where he comes into play. As a crop scientist, Dara tests new techniques to evaluate their effectiveness.

His latest research is showing real progress.

"With the departure of methyl bromide, which is an effective chemical fumigant, there is a need for an effective alternative," said Dara.

Methyl bromide has been used to kill crop-destroying carcinogens for decades, but recent environmental concerns have led regulators to limit the use of the chemical. What it's being replaced with may surprise you.

"Molasses, rice bran, and mustard seed meal are some of the materials that we use to create these anaerobic conditions," said Dara.

Conditions that have to be made in order to eliminate crop-killing diseases.

"The beds treated with the molasses, rice bran or mustard seed meal are comparable or in some cases have a higher yield than those produced by chemical fumigants," said Dara.

Dara's research is helping new techniques grow into reality.

He says they've also developed technology that turns food waste from grocery stores into compost in a matter of hours.

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