Good soil is fundamental to growing healthy, productive, and profitable crops. Jay Hao, Professor of Plant Pathology for the University of Maine, is working to reduce pathogens and improve soil health, by planting rotational crops after potatoes.

“Because the tubers stay in the soil, you face a lot of soil borne pathogens. That can cause a lot of diseases. So instead of controlling one disease versus multiple, we do the integrated way by using different crops as a nutrient input and also as a disease suppression strategy.”

Hao says planting other crops also provides nutrients to microorganisms within the soil.

“We are talking about the beneficial organisms. They can consume, digest, and turn the organic matter into different small molecules that can be absorbable nutrient or element that plants can take.”

He says those organisms can help to fight against pathogens. However, when it comes time to study the soil, “The current technology allows us to examine all microbial profiles so we can see who is there, who is going up, and who is going down. Then we can manipulate which crop is more efficient in doing this function.”

Hao says he hopes that other growers in the county will take the results and implement the techniques on their own farms.