Tomato cultivation in the Mediterranean region is susceptible to infestation by the parasitic weed branched broomrape (Orobanche ramosa), and severe yield losses can result. The effectiveness of solarization, a soil disinfection technique that uses passive solar heating, to control the incidence of broomrape under greenhouse conditions was studied over two growing seasons. Solarization was accomplished by the application of clear polyethylene sheets to moist soil for 58 to 61 d during the hot season. The treatment increased maximum soil temperature by around 10 C, and at 5 cm below the soil surface, a temperature of more than 45 C was reached for 34 to 58 d, whereas this temperature was not reached at all in the first season and not for 20 d (second season) in unmulched soil. In solarized soil, no broomrape shoots emerged, and neither haustoria nor underground tubercles of the parasite were found on tomato roots. The treatment killed about 95% of buried viable seed, and induced secondary dormancy in the remaining 5%. In nonsolarized plots, broomrape shoots were present at a high density, decreasing plant growth and fruit production. Fruit yield was 133 to 258% higher in the solarized as compared with the nonsolarized treatment. Based on these results, we suggest that soil solarization, which precludes chemical contamination and is suitable for organic farming, is an appropriate technology where the risk of branched broomrape infestation is high.
Nomenclature: Branched broomrape, Orobanche ramosa L. ORARA; tomato, Lycopersicon esculentum Mill. ‘Ikram’.