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By: Kate J. Myers and Noah P. Elhardt
Published: 2011-06-20

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Vermicompost contains significant numbers of biological organisms capable of suppressing plant diseases on leaf surfaces. This study, done at ECHO in southwest Florida during the spring of 2011, was conducted to evaluate the potential of foliar-applied vermicompost teas for plant disease suppression and subsequent yield increase of cucumber (Cucumis sativus) seeded on 15 March. Treatments included aerated, steeped (non- aerated), vermicompost leachate (extract resulting from rainwater drainage through a worm composting bin)  teas, as well as vermicompost (non-liquid material applied to the soil), and rainwater. Except for vermicompost, the treatments were sprayed biweekly (beginning the third week after the emergence of cucumber seedlings) on to the foliage of cucumber plants.  Disease incidence was rated on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 indicating 100%  leaf surface showing disease symptoms. Average disease ratings on 15 May were lower (P <0.10) with aerated tea (rating = 2) than rainwater (rating = 2.6), leachate (rating = 2.6) and vermicompost (rating = 2.8). Aerated tea also reduced disease ratings taken 21 May; however, disease incidence by the end of the season (31 May) was not influenced by treatment. Steeped tea, leachate and vermicompost failed to reduce disease incidence below that of rainwater. Fruit number, but not weight, was influenced (P <0.05) by treatments with highest fruit number (23 fruits/plot) obtained with leachate. Fruit number with leachate was higher than with all other treatments except vermicompost (20 fruits/plot). Although results were inconclusive, in terms of disease suppression, highest fruit number with vermicompost leachate indicated that this easily-produced amendment may be beneficial to cucumber production.