Aims: The aim of this work was to study the effect of high temperatures generated during composting process, on the phytopathogen fungus Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. melonis. This investigation was achieved by both in vivo (semipilot-scale composting of horticultural wastes) and in vitro (lab-scale thermal treatments) assays.
Methods and Results: Vegetable residues infected with F. oxysporum f.sp. melonis were included in compost piles. Studies were conducted in several compost windrows subjected to different treatments. Results showed an effective suppression of persistence and infective capacity, as this process caused complete fungal elimination after 2–3 days of composting. In order to confirm the effect of high temperature during this process, in vitro experiments were carried out. Temperature values of 45, 55 and 65°C were tested. All three treatments caused the elimination of fungal persistence. Treatment at 65°C was especially effective, whereas 45°C eliminated fungal persistence only after 10 days.
Conclusions: The composting process is an excellent alternative for the management of plant wastes after harvesting, as this procedure is able to suppress infective capacity of several harmful phytopathogens such as F. oxysporum f.sp. melonis.
Significance and Impact of the Study:Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. melonis is a plant pathogen fungus specially important in the province of Almería (south-east Spain), where intensive greenhouse horticulture is very extended. High temperatures reached during composting of horticultural plant wastes ensure the elimination of phytopathogen microorganisms such as F. oxysporum f.sp. melonis from vegetable material, providing an adequate hygienic quality in composts obtained.