New strawberry disease control programme could halve costs

A new strategy developed by AHDB to manage powdery mildew in strawberry crops could reduce inputs and costs by 50% compared with a standard seven-day fungicide programme.

In 2018 trials, a managed programme used significantly fewer spray applications, which reduced the cost by half compared to the traditional week-long approach. It was equally effective at maintaining control of powdery mildew.

The standard seven-day fungicide programme was compared to a managed programme which uses control products only when the strawberry crop is at risk of infection.

The approach is based upon:

  • Visual inspection for incidences of strawberry powdery mildew (shown below);
  • The environmental risk of mildew infection (which used the NIAB EMR strawberry powdery mildew model based on temperature and humidity records); and
  • The strawberry growth stage.

Scott Raffle, AHDB knowledge exchange manager, said: “In contrast to the seven-day fungicide programme where all permitted numbers of applications of the products had been made by the end of the season, far fewer applications had been made and a number were still available should late infection require additional control.

This will have a welcome benefit for growers’ bottom lines, but also has significant benefits for growers’ integrated pest management programmes.

Growers can view the managed programme in practice at the Water Efficiencies Technologies (WET) Centre, a centre of excellence to develop new commercial water-saving techniques for precision irrigation and fertigation for soft fruit growers.

Tours of the WET Centre in East Malling, Kent, will take place at Fruit Focus on July 17.

The WET Centre, now co-funded by AHDB, is designed to help growers acquire and implement learning into their business through practical demonstrations.