A few highlights from the North American Strawberry Growers 2016 Conference

By Pam Fisher, Berry Specialist, OMAFRA

This was a great NASGA conference in Savanah, Georgia, Jan 7-9, 2016. It was part of the Southeastern Fruit and Vegetable Growers Conference, which attracted over 3400 growers from the region, and featured a large trade show.

There were 20 presentations in the 2-day strawberry program, three are summed up below. The rest will be featured in future newsletters.

Varieties: Dr. Kim Lewers USDA, Beltsville, Maryland, gave an excellent overview of the process for developing a new variety from making crosses, evaluating selections, to propagation and distribution. Dr. Lewers' most recently named variety is Flavorfest, a June- bearing variety with resistance to anthracnose and good shelf life. She is planning to release a new variety with an even better shelf-life (up to 2 weeks) but with lower yields than Flavorfest.

Marketing: Ellen Polishuk, from Potomac Vegetable farms, made some very interesting points on selling local foods to her suburban market. She talked about the importance of a value statement, and a list of values that reflect what you stand for. For example , "local, fun, ecoganic, fresh, (very, very, fresh), tasty, nutritious, happy, good neighbours" , are words that describe her farm business. A value statement needs to match both the times and consumers, and is often updated. Ellen reported a recent 20% increase in CSA sales while sales at farmers markets may have reached their peak. In a second presentation Ellen spoke about labour management. In their farm, the labour profile has shifted from high school students to college graduates who are looking for a career in agriculture. www.Ellenpolishuk.com

Spotted wing drosophila: Dr. Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University reported that in a no-choice lab experiment SWD laid more eggs per gram of fruit in raspberries (3 eggs per gram of fruit) compared to strawberries (2.1), but more eggs in strawberries compared to blackberries (1.6) and blueberries (1.2).

She also talked about the importance of immediate postharvest cooling and maintaining the cold chain as strawberries and other berry crops move from the farm to the consumer . When produce is held below 35 F (1.7 C), larval development practically stops. Most eggs and some larvae are killed after 3 days at this temperature (Figure 1. Effect of temperature on SWD in blueberries after harvest).

Dr. Burrack also presented data to show that bifenthrin, a pyrethroid insecticide used for SWD, can cause spider mite outbreaks. Growers should be ready to apply extra miticides where this product is used. Malathion is not the best product for SWD in rainy weather because it is so susceptible to wash off.

Effect of temperature on SWD in blueberries after harvest
Effect of temperature on SWD in blueberries held at 35 F(1.7 C) and 68 F(20 C) after harvest

Figure 1: Effect of temperature on SWD in blueberries held at 35 °F(1.7 °C) and 68 °F(20 °C) after harvest

Data from Dr. Hannah Burrack, NC State University, USA

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