Fighting Soilborne Pathogens to Meet Organic Strawberry Demand
Demand for organic produce continues to rise. How are growers scaling their production system to meet this demand while still maintaining certified organic standards?
Dr. Joji Muramoto is a UC Cooperative Extension Specialist who works with organic producers.
Muramoto… “Yeah, soil-borne disease management is a huge challenge for organic growers. When I came to Santa Cruz in 1996, the only way to avoid the major soil pathogen, Verticillium wilt caused by Verticillium dahliae is to have a long rotations. Like once you plant the strawberries, you leave the land at least 3-4 years and then come back to strawberries.”
But, Dr. Muramoto says, it wasn’t working. Some rotations as much as seven years were still having trouble fighting the pathogen because it was finding a host in several other vegetable crops.
Muramoto… “Fortunately, we learned a method called anaerobic soil disinfestatio - a relatively new approach to create the fermentation process, and then suppress the pathogens. Since then we've been working on that method. And now, about 2000 acres of berry fields, mostly organic, in California and Baja California, has been treated by this method.”
This is one example of how the research community and farmers are collaborating to scale organic agriculture.