Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mite we talk Strawberries?

Strawberries at
We have been doing strawberry work off and on for the past few years.  The low Desert of CA/AZ has been producing December-March fruit for 10 years or so, and there are around a thousand acres down here each year.  The majority of the plantings are in the Coachella Valley, closer to Palm Springs, with the rest scattered around. For the past few years we have planted a small acreage here in Yuma of commercial style Strawberries--raised beds with plastic and drip irrigated, with a first of October planting of a commercial variety.  Steve Lucich with Norcal Nursery in Red Bluff, California has been a great help to our efforts, and we sincerely appreciate his and the rest of the staff at Norcal Nursery's support.  Ron Sakuma, one of the original brothers who formed Norcal actually worked with us 25 years ago when we played with Strawberries in Colorado, but that is another story...

For pest issues we have the usual Botrytis fruit rots, and more interestingly, we typically have a significant amount of Anthracnose as a flower / fruit issue.  To the point where we won't harvest much if we do not control it.  Powdery mildew is sporadic here.

Two Spotted Mites (Image by J. Bundy)
We also have our fair share of issues with two spotted mites.  Last year they surprised us and were a real issue in our trials--except of course in our mite trials, where they were welcome!!  The planting we have in this winter has a low level of pressure as the weather is cool, and we are nurturing them so that when the weather warms back up in a month or so, we will have a thriving population where we can do trials without the concern of either a) over spray from the commercial grower, or b) complaints from the commercial grower about how we are bombing his field with mites parachuting in...

Iron is an issue in Desert Strawberries
You can also see in the image at the right that Iron can be an issue in our soils, and strawberries are the proverbial Canary ... we do a reasonable amount of fertility work since at 15 or 20 thousand dollars an acre for commercial fields, getting the growers to shut down their fertilizer program is challenging.  Same is true with transplant issues such as Phytophthora. We have the option to keep the fumigation off the blocks, and the mortality from damping off problems is somewhat frightening in the non-fumigated areas.

The one on the right does not look too happy--
root diseases strike again! The one on the left has
worm damage and the center of the flower is frosted 
Phytophthora--Killer of Youth...

One of the more interesting things about strawberries is that there is a limit on how many people want... at the beginning of harvest (December), our staff are arm wrestling to see who gets to take them home... and by March, everyone looks the other way when they walk past the boxes...

Whatever your testing needs are for Strawberries, let us know and we will work with you on a method!

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