Is growing strawberries organically sustainable? That’s something that Surendra Dara is trying to find out. Dara is a UC Cooperative Extension Advisor in Entomology and Biologicals. He is based in San Luis Obispo County as well as Santa Barbara County. Dara met with California Ag Today recently and let us in on his research and some of his findings.
“I have not come across a mainstream grower that has told me that organic is sustainable,” Dara said.
After pulling in data and understanding the inputs, Dara is asking if there is anybody out there that has a different opinion.
“When we are talking about sustainability, we are looking only in terms of non-chemical being the sustainable, ecological practice,” he said.
There are such things as organic pesticides that harm natural enemies.
“Some of the organic ones can be as bad as some of the chemicals,” Dara said.
Data is showing that growing strawberries organically has not been sustainable economically. In terms of the carbon footprint and the bigger picture, “even organic production is not sustainable with the resources because certainly some resources are being used up,” Dara said.
Extending research information is a critical service of Cooperative Extension. Using modern technology and channels of communication is important to successfully convey that information to growers, PCAs, and other key players in the agriculture industry.
Smartphone usage has become widespread and smartphone applications are becoming popular in agriculture as they provide quick and easy access to information, help growers monitor a diverse set of variables, and facilitate decision making. However, there have been no such applications to assist California strawberry and vegetable growers.
In an effort to provide simple access to important pest and disease information for various crops readily available to the agricultural industry , Surendra K. Dara, UC Cooperative Extension San Luis Obispo County, developed IPMinfo—the first IPM information app from University of California.
First released in December, 2014 and updated in April, 2015, this new IPM app is now available for free download for iPhones on App Store, featuring extensive pest and disease information generated by Dara’s strawberry and vegetable extension program. With one-touch access, agricultural professionals can learn the biology, symptoms of plant damage, and management options for pests and diseases.