Workers Fumigating Soil
soil fumigation
(Image credit: R6, State & Private Forestry, Forest Health Protection)

What is soil fumigation? It’s the process of putting pesticides known as soil fumigants on the soil. These pesticides form a gas that is supposed to deal with pests in the soil, but they can also injure people applying them and others nearby. Fumigating soil has advantages but also significant disadvantages. Should you fumigate soil? For more information on soil fumigating, plus tips on how to fumigate soil, read on.

What is Soil Fumigation?

Fumigating soil means applying a special type of pesticide that turns into a gas. The gas passes through the soil and controls pests that live there, including nematodes, fungi, bacteria, insects, and weeds.

Should You Fumigate Soil?

The pesticides you use when you are fumigating soil turn into gas once you apply them. The gases pass into the air above the area where they were applied. They can also be pushed by the wind to other nearby areas. When the gases come in contact with people, like agricultural workers, they can produce serious negative health effects, some temporary, some irreversible. This can happen hours or days after they were first applied. In addition, the process is not always successful. Unless a grower takes great care, it’s very possible to re-infest a recently fumigated area with pathogens. One common way this happens is by moving equipment from infested fields into fields already treated. This raises the obvious question: should you fumigate soil? Since fumigation is also very expensive, growers must carefully weigh the anticipated benefits against the actual costs and potential health risks.

How to Fumigate Soil

If you are wondering how to fumigate soil, it is a very complex process. Fumigants are safe and effective when they are properly used by trained individuals, but absent special training, they can be dangerous. In many areas only licensed individuals can legally do soil fumigating. It may be wise to bring in an expert for soil fumigating since a host of factors can affect the movement and effectiveness of fumigants. These include the type of soil, its temperature, moisture levels, and organic matter content. It is also important to prepare the soil properly before doing soil fumigating. You also must select the type of fumigant that will best serve your needs and determine how deep to apply it. This varies according to dosage, soil features, and pests to be controlled as well.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.