Strawberry Fun(gi)

Hello Folks,

The last couple weeks I have set aside some time to tend to our little strawberry patch. The recent cool, cloudy and moist conditions have been absolutely ideal conditions for fungi to grow on our beloved little plants. I have not sent our plants off to a lab as of yet to confirm my amateur diagnosis, but my one course in plant pathology (I got an A!) taught me that 75% of plant diseases are fungal and a google image search shows that we might have a disease called leaf scorch. So, armed with the confidence that my plants are being attacked by mean-spirited fungi, I loaded up the seldom used Down to Earth spray gun with neem oil which is purported to have antifungal properties. About an hour or so later I had removed all the diseased leaves from the plants and sprayed the tops and undersides of the leaves with the neem oil solution. We have about 400 plants in our field which comprises 250 feet of bed space. I became overwhelmed when thinking about an acre of strawberries which has 30 to 50 thousand plants. A little research into the conventional production of strawberries showed me that one of the techniques that is used on large scale farms is a process called soil fumigation, where nearly everything in the top couple inches of the soil is killed (good or bad). One of the most popular soil fumigants, methyl bromide, is being phased out because of its high toxicity. In fact, of the major crops grown in Florida, strawberries have one of the highest rates of pesticides present on them.

Looking at the large mound of sick leaves that I removed from my plant, I understand how difficult it is to grow this tasty little fruit on a large scale. I wonder if we could grow the number of acres that we have now organically? I am not sure. But I look forward to the fruit from our little patch!

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