More than $1 million in state and federal research grants will go to the California Strawberry Commission (CSC) to improve soil health.
The research dollars will advance science on sustaining healthy soils to control plant diseases, and reduce the need for soil fumigation. The research will focus on experimental soil-borne disease management systems using biologically active soil treatments.
According to the CSC, California strawberry farmers are leaders in research to reduce pesticide use. Over the last six years, the commission has invested heavily in fumigant alternatives research, including soilless systems, steam, mustard seed meal, and anaerobic soil disinfestation.
“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,” according to Dan Legard, the CSC’s 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.”
The CSC says future sustainability for California strawberry farmers involves continued research to find non-chemical alternatives to fumigants.
The CSC says strawberry farmers have been recognized globally for phasing out methyl bromide to help protect the Earth's ozone layer. The loss of methyl bromide has left farmers with only one remaining tool to clean the soil - chloropicrin.
Chloropicrin does not control all soil-borne diseases, the commission says. Instances of the macrophomina and fusarium diseases have increased in recent years.
The grants will help strawberry farmers find other soil cleaning alternatives.
The million-dollar in research grants come from two primary sources:
- $750,000 from USDA’s Agricultural Research Service for further research into anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD) and mustard seed meal methods as practical and sustainable options for soil disease control for California strawberry farmers.
- $298,472 from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to evaluate soil-borne disease management systems which use biologically active soil treatments in combination with reduced rates of fumigants.
The research aims to significantly reduce the amount of fumigants needed to treat soil diseases before planting, and improve the efficacy of biological approaches.
Rick Tomlinson, president of the California Strawberry Commission, says, “We are honored to be recognized for our pioneering research to reduce fumigant use with these significant grants to move our research to the next level,”
California produces more than 85 percent of all U.S.-grown strawberries.
The CSC is a state government agency which represents all California strawberry shippers, processors and farmers. With an emphasis on food safety education, commission activities focus on production and nutrition research, trade relations, public policy, marketing, and communications.