Natalia Peres, professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, and Clyde Fraisse,  associate professor of agricultural and biological engineering at UF/IFAS, developed the Strawberry Advisory System. Photo courtesy UF/IFAS

Florida and South Carolina strawberry growers are benefitting from a web-based tool that helps them optimize fungicide application to prevent botrytis and anthracnose fruit rot.

The Strawberry Advisory System uses temperature and leaf wetness data to monitor conditions under which botrytis can spread and alerts growers via e-mail or text message when they should spray fungicide, according to a news release from the Gainesville-based University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. 

UF/IFAS plant pathology professor Natalia Peres and her colleagues tested the system at 39 commercial strawberry farms in Florida and South Carolina and found that it saved growers an average of 50% of the fungicide they would normally use without diminishing crop yield, according to the release.

“The StAS has been valuable to growers in that it reduces not only the amount of chemical product they need to purchase, but also the number of times they have to spray,” Peres, a faculty member at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Fla., said in the release. 

“Thus, cost savings for growers are substantial. In addition, it has potential environmental and health benefits since residues on fruit are much lower. As strawberry growers in other states showed interest in the system, there was a need to evaluate whether it would work as well in other environments and with different cultivars.”

Peres’ study was published in the journal Plant Disease.

Strawberries contribute $2.3 billion to the national economy each year and $300 million to Florida’s economy, according to research by the UF/IFAS.

 
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