117: Grapevine Mildew Control with UV Light

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UV lamps have been used in the medical field, food processing, and sterilization for 75 years but application on plant disease management only began in the 1990s. UV light is a natural component of sunlight. The most harmful wavelengths like UVC are screened out by our ozone layer. DNA damaging UVB does reach the surface, however, most organisms can utilize blue light to repair the damage.

David Gadoury, Plant Pathologist at Cornell University, is part of a large team of international researchers testing this technology on a variety of crops. Because there can be significant differences in environments, pest pressure, and times of year crops are impacted, it is important to trial this methodology globally. Powdery mildew microorganisms live in a sunlight-filled world so they use the sun’s natural blue light to repair UV damage.

More recently, scientists found that UV light for pest management is much more effective when used at night when microorganisms cannot employ the repair process. So far, trials have found that UV light is most effective against powdery mildews. In the best treatment scenarios, control is on par with the best available fungicides. And now, UV light treatments are being paired with autonomous robots, providing potentially even greater efficiencies to growers.

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