Berry Industry Must Now Work Smarter in Post Methyl Bromide Era
By Patrick Cavanaugh, Editor
The strawberry fruit production industry, with the exception of plant nurseries, has reached the point where methyl bromide is no longer available under any circumstances, and new alternatives or strategies must be found to protect strawberries from serious diseases.
The University of California is focused on a holistic approach, which includes the tried-and-true method of integrated pest management in this post Methyl Bromide era.
“None of the alternative fumigants are as good as methyl bromide,” said Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor for Santa Cruz County, who is working closely with growers on alternative methods. “So one area that we could focus on is different strategies at the time of planting. For example, strawberries have different chill times. You must add cold conditioning to give the plant more vigor.”
There are many questions. Could the colors of the plastic mulch that growers are using manage the temperatures of the soil? How about the amount of fertilizer that is being used?
“We need to start integrating these variables into the way we grow strawberries with the lack of fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide,” Bolda explained. “We need to integrate all these things and others in order to grow berries with the lack of available fumigants that are as effective as methyl bromide.”
“It’s a little disappointing that here we are at zero-hour and we do not have this worked out,” he continued. “The University of California Cooperative Extension have had a number of meetings in my office, as well as other places where we get many people in the same room to try to figure out what we know and what we don’t know.”
“There’s a lot of smart people in the industry, and I know we can get on this and find solutions,” he said.