University of California

Movement of steam along the sides of containers during steam treatment of soil


Kenneth F. Baker
William H. Fuller

Authors Affiliations

Kenneth F. Baker was Professor Emeritus in the Department of Plant Pathology, and Plant Pathologist Emeritus in the Experiment Station, Berkeley; William H. Fuller was formerly Staff Research Associate in the Department of Plant Pathology, Experiment Station, Berkeley.

Publication Information

Hilgardia 44(4):83-97. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v44n04p083. November 1976.

PDF of full article, Cite this article


Aerated steam and steam are commonly used for treating soil in the glasshouse, nursery, and mushroom industries to control soil-borne plant pathogens. In treating soil in containers there is an important and disturbing tendency for the soil next to the container sides to attain the desired temperature more rapidly than does that in the central mass. This “edge effect” cannot be eliminated, but can be diminished by: a)

treating soil in layers not more than 30 cm thick;


using large flow rates of aerated steam or steam, preferably injected through a plenum at the top;


treating soil in beds by the Thomas or surface method or by buried perforated pipes or tiles, treating soil in flats or pots by a vault steamer, and treating bulk soil by a perforated-pipe steam box or a transit-type concrete mixer;


inserting vertical partitions or open pipes in the central mass if a plenum-type steam box or a mobile bin and potting table is used;


using very porous soil mixtures. Temperature measurements should be made in soil at the bottom center when steam is injected through a top plenum, and at the top center when steam injection is through a bottom plenum.

Literature Cited

Aldrich R. A. Design of systems for aerated steam treatment of soil and soil mixes. 1971. University Park, Penn: Mimeo. Dept. Agr. Engineering, Penn. State Univ. 9p.

Aldrich R. A., Wuest P. J., McCurdy J. A. Treating soil, soil mixtures, or soil substitutes with aerated steam. Penn. Agr. Ext. Serv. Spec. Circ. 1974. 182:1-14.

Aldrich R. A., Schroeder M. E., Keppeler R. A., Diener G. H. Heating soils, soil mixes, and soil substitutes with saturated air. Penn. Agr. Exp. Sta. Bull. 1975. 800:1-38.

Baker K. F. Control of soil-borne plant pathogens with aerated steam. Proc. Wash. State Univ. Greenhouse Growers Inst. 1967. 1967:3-18.

Baker K. F., Mastalerz J. W., Langhans R. W. Soil treatment. Roses. 1969. Haslett, Mich.: Roses Inc. 331p. 40-52

Baker K. F., Mastalerz J. W. Soil treatment with steam or chemicals. Geraniums. 1971. 2nd ed. University Park, Penn: Penn. Flower Growers. 350p. 72-93

Baker K. F., Olsen C. M. Aerated steam for soil treatment. Phytopathology. 1960. 50:82

Baker K. F., Roistacher C. N. Heat treatment of soil. Principles of heat treatment of soil. Equipment for heat treatment of soil. Calif. Agr. Exp. Sta. Manual. 1957. 23:123-196. 290-293, 298-304.

Johnson D., Aas K. Investigations of the technique of soil steaming. Acta Agr. Scand. Suppl. 1960. 9:1-69.

Morris L. G. The steam sterilising of soil. Experiments on fine soil. Natl. Inst. Agr. Engineering Rept. 1954a. 14:1-32.

Morris L. G. The steam sterilising of soil. The application of research to practice. Natl. Inst. Agr. Engineering Rept. 1954b. 24:1-22.

Reba I. Applications of the Coanda effect. Sci. Amer. 1966. 214(6):84-92. DOI: 10.1038/scientificamerican0666-84 [CrossRef]

Reiner M. The teapot effect … a problem. Physics Today. 1956. 9(9):16-20. DOI: 10.1063/1.3060089 [CrossRef]

Baker K, Fuller W. 1976. Movement of steam along the sides of containers during steam treatment of soil. Hilgardia 44(4):83-97. DOI:10.3733/hilg.v44n04p083
Webmaster Email: wsuckow@ucanr.edu