The University of Florida/IFAS recently developed a web tool that helped the state’s strawberry growers save $1.7 million a year. That success has lead to the tool being brought to other states, including Maryland, Georgia, South Carolina and California.
Researchers have found a way to simulate leaf wetness in strawberry plants. This allows scientist to be more precise when suggesting the best times to spray crops for disease protection. The model shows promise in recent trials, an important thing for Florida’s $300 million dollar strawberry crop, and the U.S. in general, whose strawberry production is valued at $2.9 billion.
Before the development of this system strawberry farmers usually sprayed crops weekly from November to March. This lead to unnecessary waste of product and fungicide resistance, according to Natalia Peres, an associate professor of plant pathology. Now scientists calculate disease risk every 15 minutes, based on data from weather stations, and can tell farmers when to use chemical treatments. The process is considered more reliable than using sensors, since those sometimes fail.
Strawberry growers can access the system at AgroClimate, or use the website to sign up for email or text alerts.