A University of Florida-developed web tool can bring growers $1.7 million more in net profits over 10 years than a calendar-based fungicide system because it guides growers to spray their crop at optimal times, a new UF study shows.
The Strawberry Advisory System, devised by an Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researcher, takes data such as temperature and leaf wetness and tells growers when to spray fungicide to ward off diseases.
Before the system was developed, strawberry farmers traditionally sprayed weekly during the November-to-March growing season. Spraying more often than is needed wastes money and can lead to fungicide resistance, said Natalia Peres, associate professor in plant pathology, who led the system’s development.
“The study will help additional producers to realize the benefits,” Tatiana Borisova, an assistant professor in UF/IFAS food and resource economics department, said. “Increased adoption of this system can increase the profitability of the strawberry industry in Florida, and it will help producers to stay competitive in the market.”
Ekaterina Vorotnikova, a doctoral student in food and resource economics, worked on the study to identify how much the web tool could increase profits and yield by reducing spraying for anthracnose and botrytis, two of the crop’s deadliest diseases.
“Given that world strawberry production was worth about $4.3 billion in 2013, the development and adoption of expert systems for small fruit production operations can benefit millions of farmers worldwide,” Vorotnikova said.
In 2012 and 2013, a UF/IFAS survey found 96 percent of Florida’s strawberry producers said botrytis attacks their crop. Half said they get anthracnose every three to four years, while 40 percent said they get it every year. Fifty-five percent of respondents said they subscribe to text or e-mail alerts about anthracnose and botrytis risk levels from the system, Borisova said.