Combining Soil Solarization with Conventional Chemical Fumigants and Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD) in Florida Strawberry Production (Update)
Summary: Management of soil borne pests on commercial Florida strawberry farms has long been a challenge to growers. In recent years, this has been particularly difficult with regulatory pressures on the use of remaining chemical soil fumigants and the costs associated with their use. Also, while still in its infancy, organic strawberry production in Florida has been established by several shippers to try to meet the demand for this strawberry market segment. To provide growers with alternative non-fumigant soil pest management techniques, this project builds on previous work from these and other researchers with an on-site demonstration of Soil Solarization and Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation for the 2023 grower outreach by our collaborative groups.
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We’re ready for the 2023 research season!
2023 is shaping up to be the largest data generation season on record across the West, Midwest, and Southeast US. The last few years under Covid have brought new pest outbreaks in key cropping systems coupled with an industrywide pent-up demand for R&D data for product developers and growers alike. In response, our company has doubled down on our core capabilities to give our clients the insights they need to accomplish product development goals and drive new value for our farmers.
The world has reset–leaving an opening for biology to move in new ways. Over the last three years, we have witnessed significant crop losses across our farming regions. This includes a serious new Thrips / INS Virus / Pythium “Pest Complex” on lettuce in the Salinas Valley of California, explosive Tar Spot outbreaks in the Midwest, and strawberry crop losses from newly introduced Neopestalotiopsis in Florida. These and other agronomic challenges surfaced during Covid and have kept us busy working to understand their epidemiology and uncover new opportunities for control.
To meet this demand, Ag Metrics Group has significantly increased facilities, professional staff, and methods development to offer an expanded portfolio of experimentation for our sponsors. Research capabilities added this year include five new climate-controlled greenhouses for California and Florida. In Michigan, we built 4,800 sq. ft. of new Entomology and Nematology laboratories, surrounded by 80 additional acres of premium irrigated farmland. All told, Ag Metrics Group has grown to 12 science laboratories, 70 full-time staff, and several hundred acres of company-owned farms in key agricultural regions of the American West, Midwest, and Southeast. Our client base includes most all ag-product manufacturers, many regional grower cooperatives, and governmental agencies that include state universities and the USDA.
Now more than ever, we recognize the critical impact data-driven product development has on our industry. These solutions enable growers to respond to new challenges and opportunities with confidence in the stewardship of their land. Privatized science is the key to rapid and robust biological insights to demonstrate value in a dynamic and diverse set of pest and environmental applications into the future. We look forward to our continued partnership with our clients and wish you all a very successful year.
Ag Metrics Group Provides “First Report of Neopestalotiopsis rosae Causing Crown and Root Rot of Strawberry in California”
American Phytopathological Society of America (APS)
Dan Lawrence 1, Greg Brittain 1, Balaji Aglave 2, Frank Sances 3
1 Pacific Ag Research, 2 Florida Ag Research, 3 Ag Metrics Group
Following these authors’ research in Central Florida strawberry plantings in late 2019, they found this devastating fungus again in Salinas, California, on newly transplanted strawberries in the winter of 2021. Since their original Florida research, the fungus is now well established throughout the Southeast and has become the key pest for this crop early season. This subsequent finding in California is the first scientific proof that it has moved westward into other US strawberry producing areas, and has the potential to cause crop losses to growers in that region.
Turf & Ornamental Capabilities Expanded Companywide in 2023
California Adds 5,400 sq. ft. of Greenhouses
New San Joaquin Valley Field-Lab at Our Five Points Station
In 2022, we remodeled 1,200 ft2 of administrative offices, opened a new 2,500 ft2 climate-controlled field lab, and installed additional fruit, nut, and vine plantings. We added more microscopy, a walk-in cooler, a post-harvest drying unit, and a deep well with a new reservoir for sustainable water at this site going forward. The past year we purchased more off-site equipment including a new tow vehicle, support trucks, and another mobile orchard sprayer platform for off-site trials. Together with a new research biologist, these assets comprise a well-equipped and staffed Central Valley research campus with a wide geographic radius of field activities for product development needs.
Michigan Ag Research Expansion in Final Stage of Completion
To advance our goal to provide the best possible administration and science campus at Albion, Michigan Ag Research is now in the final stages of construction of a 4,800 ft2 building that will include:
In addition to the new laboratory facilities, 80 acres of irrigated farm land were added, bringing the total station size to 200 acres.
Publicly Funded Research:
(Dover, Florida) Strawberry growers, industry leaders, researchers from University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC), and researchers from Florida Ag Research (an Ag Metrics Group Company) gathered for the annual Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA) Field Day on January 12.
a) Solarization and ASD are approved organic soil pest control options
b) Solarization with conventional soil borne pest control inputs may allow reduction in chemical usage
c) ASD is a potential waste recycling system
The Solarization Project was presented by Ag Metrics Group’s Mark Keeley (formerly a Station Manager of Florida Ag Research). “It was great to come back out and present this exciting work to growers and researchers since the ‘Field Day’ was cancelled last January,” said Keeley, “And a great opportunity to introduce Mariano [Galla], the new Florida Ag Research Station Manager, to the Florida strawberry grower community.”
- Mark Keeley was promoted to Director of Regulatory (GLP) Services - Ag Metrics Group
- Assistant Station Manager Charlie Boone is the Interim Station Manager for Central Florida
- Kaleb Williams was promoted to Field Operations Manager
- FAR is now a USDA-approved bio-safety containment facility (APHIS-PPQ/BRS Research)
Mark Keeley has been promoted to Director of Regulatory Services - Ag Metrics Group, developing the corporation's GLP business nationally. Mark will complete the 2021 bio-efficacy season with FAR.
Assistant Station Manager Charlie Boone is the interim Station Manager. Charlie continues in his supervisory role overseeing the facility's land and labor resources for our Central Florida farms. As an Environmental Horticulturist, Charlie is particularly well-suited to manage FAR's extensive greenhouse, shadehouse, and microplot experimentation programs.
Kaleb Williams recently added his Certified Crop Advisor license to his Pesticide Research licenses and has now been promoted to Field Operations Manager. Kaleb grew up in agriculture and has independently farmed commercial vegetables for several years in Central Florida. Appropriately, he now manages all farming activities for station trials and off-site projects. He continues to oversee his farming and technical staff conducting test substance and trial maintenance applications. Kaleb also leads trial imaging, including drone overflights and colorimetric plot evaluations for field trials.
Frank Sances, Balaji Aglave, and Mark Keeley
Efficacy of various fungicide tank mixes which included combinations of Inspire and Rhyme, with Uptake, EnviroChlorite (DragonFire), Sportak 45 EC, AgroMos, and SoilSet are reported here for controlling Pestalotiopsis on strawberry. Plots were artificially infested with Pestalotiopsis and control on fruit and foliage, as well as yield effects, were assessed through the end of March.
Replicated plots were sprayed initially in mid-February to simulate grower conditions. Inoculated and noninoculated untreated check plots were included for reference and fungicide treatments included conventional and novel products applied alone or as tank mixes (Figure 2).
No crop injury was observed with any fungicide treatment used. RapidSCAN remote sensing equipment was used to measure canopy greenness (NDVI) and density (NDRE). Plants treated with the three Rhyme or Uptake sprays, or a solo application of Sportak 45 EC had significantly lower plant health readings for both parameters.
Strawberry plants in the inoculated and uninoculated check plots had higher average Pestalotiopsis severity one week after the second application. Plots treated with tank mixes of fungicides plus surfactants tended to have lower disease severity than the fungicide only applications, and plots treated with Sportak 45 EC, was among the least infested of any treatment.
Foliar fungal control, relative to the inoculated check, was highest for plants treated with three applications of tank mixes of Inspire and Uptake (78%, Figure 3), while EnviroChlorite provided the least control (7.6%).
Botrytis was also present in the field, although infection was uniform among treatments with no significant control observed with any of these spray regimes.
Marketable, unmarketable, and diseased berries were counted and weighed from seven post-treatment harvests (Figure 4). Marketable and unmarketable totals were uniform among treatment. The fewest Pestalotiopsis-infected fruit yields came from plots treated with tank mixes of Inspire and Uptake, with under 0.3% infected total berries. Switch and EnviroChlorite did not perform as well as the other fungicides in this study, with the most infected fruit as a proportion of the total yield (almost 3%).
Estimated gross returns were calculated based on Florida returns for strawberries per the USDA market report. Returns to the grower were not statistically significant (p=0.58) among these fungicide treatments.
Tank mixes of Inspire with Uptake applied three times resulted in the best control of Pestalotiopsis on plant foliage among the treatments tested, while EnviroChlorite applied alone was the least effective. Fruit yields however, were not significantly different among these treatments.
Ag Metrics Group
Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation
California Fog Belt
Crop Rotation Studies
Florida Ag Research
High Density Apple Plantings
High Pressure Fungal And Bacterial Test System
Michigan Ag Research
Pacific Ag Research
Turf & Ornamental