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N.E. Malathrakis
Technological Education Institute, 71500 Heraklio, Crete, Greece
Methyl bromide (MB) has been used as a soil disinfectant since the early 1960s. It is considered to be the most
reliable material for soil disinfestation in several crops such as greenhouse vegetables, strawberries etc., because
of its advantages over the other soil fumigants. Most of its advantages stem from its high vapour pressure and its
high inherent toxicity to nearly all-living organisms. Due to its high vapour pressure MB is easily distributed in
the soil and penetrates in great depths killing pathogens at sites not accessible to other fumigants. For the same
reason it quickly leaves the soil shortening the pre-planting interval. Because of its toxicity to a wide range of
organisms it is effective against all soil pests, fungi, bacteria, nematodes, insects, mites and weeds, except
viruses. The major problem with MB are its ozone depleting potential and bromine residues in the soil. They are
absorbed by plants and end up in the edible plant parts. Moreover, MB’s high toxicity to mammals limits its
application to non domesticated areas and only by licensed persons. Other problems resulting from MB
applications are: (i) the severe boomerang effect (ii) the toxicity of bromine residues to several plant species such
as carnations (iii) the elimination of beneficial micro-organisms such as mycorrhizal fungi, plant growth
promoting bacteria, bacteria transforming ammonium nitrogen to nitrate nitrogen, etc.