- Author: Gary S. Bender
The wildfires in San Diego and Ventura Counties during the fall of 2003 were certainly devastating to many avocado groves adjacent to burning native chaparral. Many of the avocado trees were singed in the canopy without extensive damage to the large scaffold branches; these trees will re-grow new foliage with some relatively minor pruning to clear out smaller dead branches. However, other groves have had extensive damage, complete with charring of the bark in the trunk and boiling of the sap through the bark of the trunk. In these cases, the sap became hot enough to steam the cambium layer (the layer of living cells just beneath the bark), killing the tree above the soil line.
In the latter case, the tree above the soil line is dead, but the roots are still alive. Beginning about the first of March 2004, we have noticed that many of these trees are sending up rootstock suckers near the trunk. If left to grow un-grafted, these suckers will become an avocado tree, but not a known cultivar. The question is: should these burned trees be removed and replanted with a new tree? Or should a sucker be tip-grafted back to a known cultivar?
Sucker grafting in avocado is a well-known practice and has been used extensively in the industry when a grower desired to change cultivars. Generally, the tree is cut down leaving a threefoot stump, which is used as a stake for the new tree. A strong sucker growing from the base of the tree is selected (the sucker should be about 3/4 to 1" in diameter and stiff, not rubbery), and the other smaller suckers should be removed. The sucker is cut with a horizontal cut about 6-8" above the soil line, a 2”vertical slit is made down through the center of the sucker, and 3" to 4" long piece of budwood, cut like an arrowhead at the bottom end, is slipped into the slit, matching the cambium layers together on at least one side, and preferably on both sides. The graft is wrapped tightly with grafting tape, and the entire budstick is wrapped with Parafilm to prevent moisture loss, and grafting tape is used to tie the new grafted sucker to the stump (used as a stake).
Advantages from sucker grafting (as opposed to planting a new tree).
- Sucker grafting is cheaper. As recently quoted by a grafter in Fallbrook, sucker grafting usually costs about $2 per tree after the tree has been cut down to a 3 foot stump. If the grafter supplies the budwood and grafting tape, the price will probably be $2.50 per tree. If the grafter has to travel away from Fallbrook, the price will be higher according to the distance traveled. A new replacement tree will cost about $14 on a seedling rootstock, or $19-22 on a clonal rootstock. The labor cost for planting the new tree would be about $2.00 per tree. These costs do not include cutting down the older burned tree, or follow-up care for the young tree.
- The older, burned avocado tree has an extensive root system with a lot of stored energy. When the sucker graft begins to grow it usually grows very rapidly, much faster than a young replant tree. The sucker grafted tree should start to set fruit two years after grafting.
Disadvantages from sucker grafting.
- We are assuming that the sucker-grafted tree is healthy and does not have root rot or some other disease. If the older tree has root rot, it would be better to remove the old tree and replant with a new tree grown on one of the newer root-rot tolerant clonal rootstocks.
- In the system described above, the trunk is used as a stake. When the new tree grows enough to be selfsupporting, the old stump should be cut down close to the ground. The stump should be slightly sloped to drain water away from the new tree. This takes some careful chainsaw work.
- Suckers. Until the new tree gains strength and starts to shade the old stump, there will be other suckers emerging. These must be removed or they will take over and shade the grafted sucker.
- Author: Ben Faber
Irrigation efficiency requires not only uniform irrigation, but also the proper timing and amount of applied water. It is important that the irrigator know the system water application rate, either in inches per day, inches per hour, or gallons per hour.
Irrigation scheduling which determines the time and amount of water to be applied can be accomplished through a variety of methods, including measuring soil moisture, determining plant moisture status and determining evapotranspirational loss (ET crop or ETc). Evapotranspiration values are a measure of the actual amount of water well watered plants would use. This information is available in many areas of California from newspapers, irrigation districts, and over the Department of Water Resources CIMIS network California Irrigation Management Information System, or CIMIS Help Line (800) 922-4647).
Evapotranspiration varies seasonally and from year to year for a given location. DWR has developed a map of the average daily ET for various zones in California. These zones are distinctive because total sunlight, wind, relative humidity and temperature are the parameters that drive water loss and differ in each zone. Where the Central Valley becomes hot and cloudless in the summer, along the coast the intensity of the marine layer and its effect on sunshine differs from year to year.
Scheduling, as opposed to a fixed amount applied at a fixed time, is especially important in Southern California coastal valleys. Although the average annual irrigation requirement is about 2 feet of applied water per year (2 acre-feet per acre or 651,702 gallons per acre), this value varies tremendously from year to year, from as little as 18 inches to as much as 3 feet.
One of the most important variables in the quantity of applied water is the length of the rainfall season and the effectiveness of the rainfall. The rainfall season determines the length of the irrigation season and effective rainfall determines how much the plant can use. Effective rainfall is defined as the amount of rainfall, which is retained in the root zone of the tree. For example, consider a rooting depth of 2 feet and each foot holds 1 inch of available water. If you have just irrigated or if it rained 2 inches yesterday and it rains 2 inches today, none of today's rain is effective since the soil was already moist. It did leach salts out, however. Rain events of less than 0.25 inches are also not considered effective.
Determining an irrigation schedule based on tree water requirement falls into three broad categories of technology - plantbased, soil-based and weather-based. Many of these technologies are proven and have been in use for years. Others are more experimental and have not been fully tested. In several cases improved electronics and digitalization have put a new spin on older technologies. A method of determining when to irrigate should be learned by all growers and often a combination of techniques can be employed.
Plant-based Scheduling Methods
The plant is the ideal subject to measure, since it is integrating all the various factors driving water loss as well as soil moisture and any stresses such as soil salinity and plant health. To be a useful tool in irrigation scheduling, plant-based measuring devices must provide indicators of stress before that stress reaches levels that result in yield decreases. The methods include:
- Pressure chamber (pressure bomb or Schollander pressure chamber) measures plant water tension by applying a comparable air pressure to a leaf or stem. The amount of pressure required to equilibrate with the plant sap indicates how much stress the plant is under.
- Trunk diameter fluctuations (shrink/swell), measured continuously with linear variable displacement transducers (LVDTs), can be used to calculate parameters that are directly related to tree stress.
- Stem flow gauge estimates transpiration by placing a heat source on the trunk of the tree and then measuring the temperature differential along a trunk.
- Porometer measures the ability of a leaf to transpire, so when the leaf is under water stress then less water is transpired.
- Infrared thermometry measures the canopy temperature as affected by the rate of transpiration, so as the plant goes under water stress, the leaves gets warmer.
- Visual symptoms (wilting, leaf curling) are the cheapest method, but the most expensive in the long run.
- While these techniques can be valuable for scientific use, there has been little adoption in commercial agriculture. With the exception of the pressure chamber and LVDTs, this is due to the aforementioned problem of being able to identify mild water stress. Another reason for their lack of use by commercial agriculture, specifically subtropicals, is that there are logistical problems with mature trees, such as with the stem flow gauge and infrared thermometry. At this time, the pressure chamber is the state of the art in measuring tree water stress in subtropicals while recent research indicates that the LVDTs show promise for automating irrigation scheduling.
Soil-based Scheduling Methods
A rule of thumb is that irrigation timing should occur when about 50% of the water available to the plant has been depleted from the soil. The 50% figure is arbitrary; it allows a buffer of water in the soil in case the weather suddenly turns hot and windy.
Of course a sandy soil will hold less water than a clay soil, so irrigation will be more frequent. A common perception is that it takes more water to grow plants in sandy soil than clay soil. The total amount required for the whole year by the tree will not be changed by the soil type. This is because it is the sun, wind, temperature and humidity, which decides how much water the tree, will need. The soil is only the reservoir.
To check the water content in the soil, take a trowel, shovel, or soil tube and dig down 8 to 16 inches. A soil that has about 50% available water remaining will feel as follows:
- coarse - appears almost dry, will form a ball that does not hold shape;
- loamy - forms a ball, somewhat moldable, will form a weak ribbon when squeezed between fingers, dark color;
- clayey - forms a good ball, makes a ribbon an inch or so long, dark color, slightly sticky.
Irrigation timing can be determined and also mechanized with the use of a tensiometer. These water filled tubes with a pressure gauge accurately reflect the amount of energy a plant needs to extract water from the soil. The pressure gauge measures "tension values" in centibar units (cbars). When the gauge reads 30 cbars, it is a good time to irrigate.
Placement of the tensiometers requires that they be within the root zone, between the emitter and the tree trunk. Having two tensiometers next to each can be helpful in deciding both when to turn the system on and when to turn it off. A tensiometer at a one-foot depth tells when the water should be turned on and a tensiometer at three feet tells when to turn the system off. Placing a plastic milk crate over the device will prevent pickers from kicking them over.
There are other devices on the market for measuring soil moisture. Gypsum blocks are very effective. Although the part in the ground is inexpensive, the reading device costs in the $250 range. This cost means a large enough acreage is required to spread out the cost of the system.
There are portable meters on the market for measuring soil moisture. These meters rely on an electrical current carried by water in the soil. Even the cheap $10 ones can give a rough estimate of the soil water content. None are very effective in rocky ground, because their sensitive tips break easily.
The amount of water to apply at an irrigation depends on the amount of water held within the root zone. A loamy soil where a microsprinkler with a 20-foot diameter throw has wetted a twofoot depth will hold about 200 gallons of water at 50% of the soils water holding capacity. Exceeding this amount of water will help leach salts; but if far in excess, additional water is only pushing existing water out of the root zone.
It is best to follow one or two irrigation cycles to find out how long to run the system to achieve a certain depth of infiltration. This can be done with a shovel or more easily with a pointed rod or tensiometers. Water moves in a wetting front, and the wetted soil will allow the rod to be pushed in to the depth of dry soil. The system should be run to find out how long it takes water to infiltrate to a depth of two and three feet. That information will indicate how long to run the system when irrigating.
Applying water to achieve a two to three foot depth may take several hours. If run-off occurs, the system may be turned off for a few hours, then turned on again to get the total run time required to infiltrate to a given depth. If run-off is severe, use emitters with a smaller flow rate.
Soil-based methods monitor some aspect of soil moisture which, depending on the method, requires some correlation to plant water use. Some of the methods are well understood and inexpensive, others are expensive, inaccurate, inappropriate or not well researched. Some of the techniques allow multiple site readings while others require a device to be left in place. Some measure soil water directly, like oven-drying and others measure some other parameter with is associated with water content, such as electrical conductance. Some are affected by salts or soil iron content and others have limited value in the desired soil moisture range. Some, like tensiometers and gypsum blocks, give a reading from a porous material, which comes to equilibrium with soil moisture, while many others use the soil directly as the measured media. This is an important distinction since discontinuities in the soil caused by rocks or gopher holes can affect readings when the soil is used to carry a signal. Also, times have changed and some of the old techniques have been improved. For example, gravimetric oven-drying can now be done by microwave, considerably speeding up the process. Tensiometers and gypsum blocks can now be found with digital readouts and connections to data loggers, which make data easier to manage. There are quite a number of devices on the market and the following chart will shed some light on their differences.
As with any tool, the value of these devices increases with use and familiarity. Even though several of these are listed as stationary devices, by placing them in representative positions in the orchard, they can accurately reflect the rest of the orchard. Several of the devices are listed in the table as being both stationary and portable; this is because there are various models that can act one way or the other. The "Ease of Use" category in the table indicates not just the ease of reading the device, but also the maintenance required for it.
Weather-based Methods of Irrigation Scheduling
Another scheduling technique that has become popular is the use of weather data that has been converted to a crop water use value. This value is the estimated amount of water an orchard would use. The value is often referred to as the evapotranspiration (ET) of the crop. ET is the amount of water that can be lost by a well-watered crop either through the leaves (transpiration) or evaporation from the surface of the soil. By applying the ET amount at an irrigation, the trees are kept at optimum moisture content. The technique is often called the water budget method or checkbook scheduling.
The CIMIS network of over 50 weather stations calculates reference evapotranspiration (ETo). This value is an estimate of the amount of water lost from a well-watered field of grass. Grass is the standard or reference for all other crops. ETo is modified for the specific crop with a crop coefficient (kc). The formula for converting ETo to crop ET is: ETo X kc = ETcrop.
For a full-grown subtropical orchard a kc of 0.65 is used in most of the State, but in the desert growing areas, 0.56 is used. With smaller trees, a smaller kc is used. When trees are young and intercept little energy to drive water loss, a kc of 0.05 works well. As the trees increase in size to where their shade covers about 65% the soil surface, the kc is gradually increased each year. With rapidly growing trees, the kc increase is usually about 10 % each year, until about year 8 when the 65% figure is reached. A correction factor needs to be incorporated for the irrigation system distribution uniformity, as well.
If the orchard is cover cropped for part or all of the year, the period during which the cover is present needs to be recognized in the water use calculation. A soil that is covered by a cover crop and trees uses water just like a mature orchard. Therefore, if the young orchard is covered by a perennial cover crop a kc of 0.65 is used regardless of tree size. If a winter annual cover is used, that uses only rainfall for its growth, correction is not usually necessary in a high rainfall year. But in low rainfall years, the water requirements of the cover need to be recognized in the irrigation program.
Reference evapotranspiration values are available from many irrigation districts, CIMIS, several weekly journals and magazines. In Ventura County, the values are available through County Flood Control, and in San Diego County, they are available from the Resource Conservation Districts.
One of the drawbacks of the centralized weather stations is that in hilly terrain with different sun exposures, the station values can be quite different from the water loss at a grove. When using evapotranspiration figures it is always important to back up the estimates with field checks in the grove. An alternative to using the centralized weather stations is establishing one of your own. These electronic stations cost in the range of $5,000 and require regular maintenance as well.
A simpler weather station can be developed with an evaporation pan or an atmometer (atmosphere meter). Both of these devices actually measure the loss of water due to evaporation and since the physics of evaporation and transpiration are very similar, the values can easily be used in a water budget.
The major drawback to the evaporation pan is the maintenance required to keep birds, coyotes, and bees from causing inaccurate readings. Algae also needs to be kept free of the pool. An atmometer is a closed system with a ceramic head, much like a tensiometer. As water is drawn out of a reservoir, a sight tube shows how much water has been evaporated. The atmometer is more expensive (~$300) than a pan, but it is much easier to maintain.
Regardless of what scheduling technique or combination of techniques is used, a thorough evaluation of the system needs to be performed so that a known amount of water is being applied. Until volume and distribution of water are known, it makes little sense to schedule applications.
- Author: Ben Faber
This little mnemonic, or memory aid, in the title is helpful in remembering the critical levels of toxic constituents in irrigation water. The “one” stands for 1 part per million (ppm) of boron (B), the “one hundred” flags 100 ppm of sodium (Na) and chloride (Cl) and the “one thousand” represents the level of total soluble solids (TDS or salts) in water. Levels exceeding the critical values for any of these constituents can present problems for tree growers. The problems typically show themselves as tip-burn and defoliation. The B, Na and Cl are toxic elements at relatively low concentrations, but symptoms appear similar to the damage caused by high salinity.
Water that exceeds the critical levels mentioned in the mnemonic has a greater tendency to cause damage if sufficient leaching is not applied. It doesn’t mean the water is impossible to use, only that greater attention needs to be made to ensure that these salts are adequately leached. High levels of these salts accumulate in the soil with each irrigation. These salts are absorbed by the tree and end up in the leaves where they do damage.
Irrigation is a necessary evil. Every time we apply irrigation water we apply salts, and unless some technique is used to minimize salt accumulation, damage will result. This damage can be more than just leaf drop, but also the stress that induces conditions for root rot. In most years we rely on winter rainfall to correct the salt imbalance resulting from irrigation water.
This year has been a winter largely without rain. Irrigation water was applied throughout the winter, spring, summer and fall and many trees look stressed this spring. Even well irrigated orchards in the spring of 2012 have leaf burn due to the gradual accumulation of salts from irrigation. Avocados, which are generally more sensitive to salts than citrus, drop their salt-burned leaves this spring when flowering begins.
We usually think that it is not necessary to irrigate in the winter, but this winter should change that opinion. To add to the lack of rain problem, it may be necessary to irrigate even if there is rain in the future. The wetted pattern that is created by a drip or microsprinkler emitter also creates a ring of salt in the outer band of the wetted patter. If there is less than an inch of rainfall to push this salt down, this salt tends to diffuse towards the tree where it can accumulate back in the root system. Orchards with even good water quality would find it advisable to run the irrigation system with the first rains. Those with poor water quality definitely should run the microsprinkler system with an equivalent of one-half inch-applied water (13,500 gallons per acre) during or soon after the first events of less than one-half inch rainfall. Growers with water quality exceeding one, hundred, or thousand should be especially alert to the need to manage water in low rainfall winters.
- Author: Blake Sanden
The best key to unlock efficient irrigation practice is to know exactly how much water your crop uses and replace it in a timely fashion that matches your irrigation system capacity and avoids crop stress and water logging. We have good “normal year” estimates of citrus water use (evapotranspiration, ET) for the San Joaquin Valley, but as any grower knows very few blocks are “normal”. The Frost Nucellar on the Cajon loamy sand and fanjets in Edison doesn't behave the same as Fukumoto navel planted to double-line drip on an Exeter clay loam.
So what's the trick for hitting optimum water management for a particular block? You have to keep account of your soil moisture reservoir in the crop root zone. Tracking soil moisture tells you whether you're putting on too much or too little water to meet crop needs. It's also the key to increasing fruit set and quality in many crops such as canning tomatoes, improving flavor in most wine grape varieties and possibly help control puff and crease in citrus.
But any farmer and most ag consultants will tell you that checking soil moisture is not for the faint of heart because it requires auguring holes, pushing a steel probe tube, and/or installing soil moisture monitoring instruments to depths of 2 to 6 feet depending on the crop. Checking instruments or hand probing needs to be done on at least a weekly basis to be useful.
After pushing, twisting, pounding and digging thousands of holes in hundreds of fields around the San Joaquin Valley I can testify to the fact that this is only slightly more fun than shoveling manure, and it's a whole lot harder on your shoulders and wrists. The result is that it's not done very often, if at all, and farmers tend to stick to a traditional irrigation schedule. Given all the other decisions and details growers have to see to on a daily basis it's not surprising this activity gets pushed to the side. At the same time, the years of experience a farmer has with a crop and with a particular field often give him an intuitive sense of how to run the water and end up being 75 to 90% efficient anyway! So if you're already this efficient then why auger holes and check moisture anyway?
There are two reasons: 1) You're not really sure that you're at the optimum point of the crop water use curve until you check, and 2) The simple math of cost versus benefit. Water monitoring consulting services run around $15/acre/season depending on total acreage and what degree of technology and reporting you want done. If this is the only cost you incur to get the extra 5% out of a 3-bale cotton crop then you've made an extra $22/acre even if cotton is only 50 cents/lb. Even at just $2 net/box, the total from an extra 15 boxes of grapes or extra fancy oranges is a 100% return on your $15 investment.
Many growers have tried tensiometers in the past and usually get fed up with the maintenance. A new generation of medium and high technology sensors is now available to growers and consultants. The huge diversity of sensors can be intimidating at first glance but these systems can make this job easier, more accurate and even more affordable. The biggest advantage to the new technology is the use of a continuously recording data logger coupled to responsive soil moisture sensors.
A series of irrigation management/monitoring demonstrations by UC Cooperative Extension over the last 3 years in Kern County has looked at using a combination of 6 granular matrix electrical resistance blocks (Watermark®) coupled to a logger with a graphic display (Hansen AM400®) to allow growers a “push button” look at 5 weeks of soil moisture history at any time during the season. The cost of this system is about $600 and should be good for 3 to 5 years. This gives growers a look at the dynamic changes in soil moisture due to actual crop water use and subsequent recharge of the profile during irrigation. The pattern of the peaks and rate of change of these readings is more useful than the actual numbers themselves. Many different sensors and loggers provide this type of information but the AM400/Watermark system is the only combination providing a graphic display in the field without having to download to a computer. Computer downloads can also be done anytime during the season to develop charts such as those shown below.
Charts (a), (b) and (c) show the changes in soil moisture for 2 different blocks of early navels in the Edison area of Kern County for summer 2003. Comments are placed in boxes connected to explain what these patterns mean.
Even though all three of these monitoring locations are within 800 feet of each other we see very different changes in soil moisture. The hedgerow block (a) has many skips as the grower has begun pulling trees and he wants to avoid over watering the whole block.NEW PARA Charts (b) and (c) are for trees in the same row but different sets. Slightly higher hose pressures and loamier ground keep (b) moister than (c), which shows almost a perfectly efficient pattern of crop water use and recharge. To keep the trees in (c) from looking “hot” required an irrigation frequency for this block that resulted in the wetter condition at location (b). But the bottom line for the grower is these trees have never looked better, he used less water in 2003 and had a better packout than in 2002.
Checkout my website,for some calibration curves and other field examples, both good and bad, under “Using Watermarks in Different Soils”. Irrometer, Onset and Spectrum companies also make inexpensive loggers (can be found here. (Note: use of any product names is not intended as a commercial endorsement.)
- Author: Ben Faber, University of California Cooperative Extension
- Author: Michael Spiers, HortResearch, Ruakura, New Zealand
Biological control of Phytophthora cinnamomi in avocado through the use of mulches was identified by an Australian grower and later described as the "Ashburner Method" by Broadbent and Baker. The technique uses large amounts of organic matter as a mulch along with a source of calcium. Control of avocado root rot in the Ashburner method was attributed to the presence of Pseudomonas bacteria and Actinomycetes. Multiple antagonists are more likely the cause of biological control, since no single organism has been found to be consistently associated with soils suppressive to P. cinnamomi.
The use of organic mulches has multiple effects, such as altered soil nutrient and water status and improved physical structure. Any improvements in plant status resulting from improvements in the growing environment can improve plant health. The effect of organic amendments on soil physical and chemical properties can vary considerably depending on soil texture and the environment. One of the most consistent effects of organic amendments is an increase in biological activity. Increases in organic substrate lead to increased fungal and bacterial populations. In numerous cases, this increase in biomass has been associated with disease suppression. This biological control can be ascribed to several mechanisms: competition, antibiosis, parasitism, predation and induced resistance in the plant.
The microbial biomass is responsible for release of enzyme products and polysaccharides in soils. The microbially-produced enzymes cellulase and glucanase have been demonstrated to have a significant effect on Phytophthora populations. This mechanism of antibiosis is possible because the microbes are releasing these enzymes to solubilize organic matter. Unlike other fungi, Phytophthora have cell walls that are comprised of cellulose and in the process of decomposing organic matter with enzymes, an environment is created that is also hostile to the pathogen.
In order to see if there might be potential differences in organic materials being better at combating avocado root rot, a little field trial was established with 23 different types of materials. The mulch materials were obtained from nearby hedges and chipped or obtained from commercial sources of mulch. Some of these materials would be difficult to get in large amounts, such as manuka (Leptospermum scoparium), but others are commercially available chipped greenwaste. The materials were then spread on the ground to a depth of five inches, in separate plots that were 36 X 36 inch squares. Decomposition was measured over a two year period and then cellulase was measured in the mulch, at the soil / mulch interface and at a two inch depth in the soil at the end of 2 years.
Since cellulase production is part of the decomposition process, the rate of decomposition should be a partial indicator of the amount of cellulase present. After a mulch application there is generally settling due to rainfall-caused compaction, but much of the decline by the second year is due exclusively to decomposition. The more recalcitrant materials, such as bark, wood chips and sawdust have barely lost half their depth after two years, while others such as shredded eucalyptus, manuka, avocado and willow are less than 20% of their initial depth. Much of the shredded/chipped material, such as eucalyptus had a significant fraction of leaves in the mulch. The wool disappeared a little after one year. The greenwaste + chicken manure compost is nearly the same depth as the wood chips, since it is a material that had gone through a decomposition process prior to its application and much of the easily digestible materials had already been decomposed.
The rate of decomposition has some bearing on the rate of cellulase production. Eucalyptus and manuka had the two greatest rates of decomposition and show the highest levels of cellulase production. The cellulase levels were consistent with all the different mulch materials. Using decomposition rate alone is not a complete indicator of cellulase production since, poplar, willow and avocado had high rates of decomposition, but their cellulase rates were half those of manuka and eucalyptus.
It is clear that the cellulase effect is limited to the layer of mulch and not to depth within the soil. There is some effect at the soil surface, but at 5 cm (2 inches) cellulase activity drops to background levels. There is earthworm activity at the test sites and one idea was that earthworm incorporation of organic matter would move the cellulase production into the soil. Maybe with further time this would occur. As it is, when mulches are applied to avocado, the roots tend to proliferate in the mulch, out of the soil where the cellulase activity is the least.
Something to keep in mind is that we do not know what levels of cellulase are necessary to control the root rot fungus. It may be that levels seen with pine bark are more than adequate. Also we have measured cellulase production at only one time in a two-year period and it is quite likely that this is not the best snapshot of what is happening before and after. A further reminder is that cellulase is only one of the many byproducts associated with decomposition and many of the antagonistic properties that are associated with the microbial biomass are not being measured in this trial. Having developed this screening procedure what needs to be done next is to take high, medium and low cellulase producing mulches and challenge the fungus to verify that this is a good way to evaluate mulches.