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Randy Jertberg, Exec. Chairman of Sierra Cascade Nursery and Steve Fennimore, Researcher at UC Davis  on August 28 at Butte Valley Ranch during soil steaming trials. 

Why is ASSA needed?

By Dr. Steve Fennimore, University of California, Davis 

Steve Fennimore is a Board Director of ASSA and the Chair of ASSA's Technical Committee. Steve is an international expert in weed management, vegetable crops and small fruits. He has authored multiple papers on soil pasteurization over the last 13 years and a co-founder of ASSA. Steve is as faculty member in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis, an Extension Specialist with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and  director of the statewide Vegetable Research and Information Center, housed at UC Davis. DR. Fennimore is also the recipient of  multiple awards and an Associate Editor of Weed Technology.

California has about 400 different crops many of which use a variety of cultural practices and each crop has a variety of needs for seeding or transplanting, cultivation, weeding, pest management and fertilization, as well as harvest. Due to the limited acreage of these crops the incentives for developing technology for them is limited by the small markets. Major machinery manufacturers are focused on the larger markets such as corn, cotton, soybean, and wheat.  California specialty crop producers are forced to develop their own technologies themselves for their specific crops, or to seek out companies around the US or internationally that are developing useful technologies for their crops. Both approaches involve an investment of time and money that is beyond the means of individual farmers.

University research can help discover useful technologies and to prove the concept of why a technique such as soil steaming works. The weakness of university research is the commercialization aspect. Once a technique such as soil steaming is demonstrated and is of interest to the end user, it must be commercialized so that the technology can be utilized by many growers. It is difficult for university researchers to implement the commercialization aspect of the project themselves. Formation of a non-profit organization that can bring together interested parties to meet a common goal is a way to strengthen the research and promote commercialization.

There are many reasons why a group interested in advancing soil steaming is needed: the American Soil Steaming Association (ASSA) is designed to bring together a critical mass of companies and individuals that seek to develop soil steaming technology for use in strawberry fruit and nursery fields, cut flower fields and any other fields where soil disinfestation is required. The formation of ASSA facilitates bringing together end users, potential manufacturers, engineers and machinists, custom applicators, and researchers. It is much easier to appeal to international machinery manufacturers, and investors to participate when we have an integrated group like ASSA. Securing grant funds from public agencies such as US Dept. of Agriculture and California government agencies is also facilitated by an integrated group focused on the common good such as reduction of the use of soil fumigants.

Many have attempted to tinker with field-scale steam applicators in the past with limited resources and inadequate preparation. ASSA provides the best opportunity to form a critical mass needed to advance steam technology to the commercial stage in California and the entire USA.