Advice for Growing Strawberries in 2020

Mar 02, 2020

It’s the time of year when strawberries should begin to wake up from their winter dormancy. Wait! Did we even have a winter?!? Did the strawberries even go dormant?

A mild winter often presents an increase in challenges for strawberry growers, especially with insects and disease. To help prepare growers, Ben Gilbert, specialty crops agronomist for Tennessee Farmers Cooperative, shares his insights and advice specifically tailored for this year’s strawberry crop.

Several insects injure strawberries in Tennessee either directly by attacking the fruit or indirectly by reducing plant vigor. Unless control measures are followed, damage may be severe enough to drastically reduce yields and fruit quality. Since temperatures have been warmer than normal, insect pressure will be higher.

Spider mites will be out early because they’ve been able to survive the winter in the crowns of the plants. If they are present, you may find a fine, silken webbing on your plants. In fact, they have already been identified in a few Tennessee fields this year. Mites feed on undersides of leaves causing leaf mottling and eventual coppery bronze discoloration, and weakened plants will likely die. I recommend an early product application to control mites.

Disease will also be a challenge mainly because of the wet weather this winter.  Anthracnose, generally considered a warm, wet weather disease of strawberry, will likely be a problem this year. It can be controlled and prevented with a chemical application.

Botrytis is another issue strawberry growers could see this year. Most fruit infections actually occur during bloom, but this fungus colonizes old dead flower parts and gets established in the young green fruit. When the fruit begins to mature and ripen, the fungus becomes active and fruit rot develops. Botrytis can be controlled by preventative sprays.

This year, as in most for strawberry crops, insects and disease require a high level of control because they can quickly decrease yields and reduce marketability of fruit. With that in mind, it's important to monitor and control pests.

Pest management involves many aspects of production — with pesticide application being only one part. Learn to correctly identify pests and become familiar with the pests' biology. Some pests affect the flowers and fruit, while others attack the foliage, stems, crowns, and roots of the plant. It’s important to incorporate scouting into your routine to catch problems early.

As the 2020 growing season approaches, Co-op can help you face any challenges it brings. We are grateful for your business and look forward to working with you to make this year your best yet!

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