The California Strawberry Commission is getting more than $1 million in state and federal grants to research healthy soils. This commission news release says the research will focus on evaluation of experimental soil borne disease management systems using biologically active soil treatments.
“These recent grant awards will allow us to continue working with the top researchers in the world to find sustainable solutions to managing plant disease and pests in the soil without fumigation,” said Dan Legard, commission vice president of research and grower education. “We look forward to more robust research aimed at new ways to create healthy soil environments for strawberries.”
Continued research to find non-chemical alternatives to fumigants is critical to the future sustainability of California strawberry farmers, who have received global recognition for phasing out methyl bromide to protect the earth’s ozone layer. The loss of methyl bromide has left farmers with only one remaining tool to clean the soil – chloropicrin. While chloropicrin has been used safely for the past 50 years, it does not control all the soil borne disease. In recent years, the state’s strawberry farmers have seen an increase in two diseases: macrophomina and fusarium.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service awarded $750,000 for further research into deploying anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) and mustard seed meal methods as practical and sustainable options for California strawberry farmers to control diseases in the soil. Also, the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Department of Pesticide Regulation awarded $298,472 to the commission to evaluate soil-borne disease management systems that integrate the use of biologically active soil treatments, such as ASD, in combination with reduced rates of fumigants.