1. Opening of the conference
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Opening Address by Dr Mahmoud Mohamed Taher,
FAO Regional Plant Protection
Officer for the Near East
FAO, Rome, Italy
His Excellency, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr President of the University of Jordan, Honourable Guests and Distinguished Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of the Director-General of FAO, it is my pleasure to welcome you on the occasion of the first International Conference on Soil Solarization.
I should like here to express sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, His Excellency the Minister of Agriculture, and the President of the University of Jordan, for kindly hosting this Conference and providing all possible support required for its organization and success. I should also like to thank my colleagues on the Organizing Committee, Professor Walid Abu-Gharbieh (of the University of Jordan), Professor James DeVay (of the University of California, Davis), and Professor Franco Lamberti (of the Italian National Research Council), for their continuing efforts throughout the preparation of the meeting which have resulted in securing the impute we see in the programme before us. Special thanks are due to the local organizing committee, and the many other colleagues behind the scenes from the University of Jordan and Ministry of Agriculture in Amman, for their arrangements which started many months ago and have borne the fruits that we are enjoying now.
We acknowledge too the generous contributions provided by the Ministry of Agriculture in Jordan, the United Nations Development Programme, the Italian Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche, the United States Agency for International Development in Jordan, the Arab Organization for Agriculture Development, the Higher Council for Science and Technology in Jordan, and the Arab Society of Plant Protection, which have made this Conference possible.
Why an international conference on soil solarization?
Soilborne pests are the first that plants encounter before and after seed germination. As these pests inhabit the soil, firstly, they pose a constant threat to the growing plant at various stages of development, and secondly, they use the growing plant as a vehicle for dissemination to other areas where they again threaten other crops. Literature records great losses to agricultural crops and produce due to various soilborne pests including fungi, bacteria, weeds and nematodes. This situation necessitates the development of effective control measures.
Within its mandate to assist member countries in crop protection, since the 1960s, FAO has undertaken a major programme for the promotion of Integrated Pest Management, which has been defined as "the farmer's best mix of control tactics in comparison with yields, profile and safety of alternative". Here, pesticides are always the last resort and, even if needed, they should be of low toxicity and as selective as possible with minimum impact on the environment.
Successful integrated pest management programmes have to take into consideration, among various factors, two important elements, namely crop sanitation and soil sanitation. Crop sanitation has proved successful in controlling diseases of a viral nature and has contributed toward increased yields. Soil sanitation is equally important in combatting pests and increasing production. The routine approaches to soil sanitation mainly comprise crop rotation and soil treatment with pesticides. These methods usually have unavoidable and undesirable results such as, on the one hand, reduction of the cultivable area due to unavailability of the land under rotation or, on the other hand, putting up with the high costs involved in the use of pesticides and/or their side-effects on man and the environment.
Soil solarization, as an alternative modern approach to control of soilborne pests, has developed fairly rapidly during the past two decades, and the results achieved appear promising. Many pathogenic, soilborne fungi, bacteria, nematodes and woods are reported to be controlled by soil solarization. The technique has apparently been extended from small-scale use in greenhouses and seedbeds to open field cultivation and control of soilborne pests in established orchards. In fact, in many countries where solar resources arc adequate, soil solarization has developed from the experimental stage to commercial application to replace the use of highly toxic soil fumigants such as the widely used methyl bromide.
The Conference objectives, that is, to discuss and illustrate available technology on soil solarization as an integrated method for improving plant health, growth and yield in arid agriculture, and as a safe, cheap and effective alternative to chemical treatment, are therefore very important in adding an essential, safe and effective ingredient to the Integrated Pest Management recipe, and thereby gain the interest and support of FAO.
While wishing the Conference every success in achieving its objectives, I would assure you that FAO will provide all the assistance that its resources permit to support valid initiatives that member countries may take in the implementation of measures stemming from this Conference.
Finally, I want to thank all invited speakers and those presenting research papers for their positive contribution, and I wish all participants a successful meeting and a pleasant stay in Jordan.
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