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Methyl bromide alternatives for California strawberry nurseries
Date:2/17/2009

SALINAS, CASince around 1960, methyl bromide (MB) has been the foundation for soilborne disease and weed control in California strawberries. MB, classified as a Class I stratospheric ozone-depleting chemical, has been phased out since 2005, but is still being used in strawberry production under a critical-use exemption.

Strawberry production is important to California's economy; the state leads the U.S. in strawberry production. In 2006, the fruit harvest yielded a value of $1.2 billion, and accounted for 79% of the total U.S. gross sales.

The diversity of climates in California along with the use of this fumigant, permits the production of high-quality runner plants, which are propagated in virus-free growing facilities called "screenhouses". Plants are reared first in a low-elevation facility during the warm early season, and then moved to higher-elevation facilities for cool, late-summer conditions. This process ensures that strawberry plants will be ready to transplant into fruit fields by early fall.

A research study published in the American Society for Horticultural Science journal HortScience evaluated the effectiveness and cost efficiency for weed control in lower- and higher-elevation nurseries with MB-alternative fumigants.

Researchers Steven A. Fennimore, Milton J. Haar, Rachael E. Goodhue, and Christopher Q.Winterbottom noted that weed control in strawberry nurseries is more difficult than in fruiting fields. "Because weed control methods such as mulches used in fruit fields can't be used in nurseries, fumigants are one of the most important weed control tools available for strawberry nursery fields", the team explained.

Assessing weed control in the study consisted of three methods: weed seed viability, weed density counts, and timing of hand-weeding inputs by crews. Strawberry and weed seed samples were treated with the alternative fumigants to determine the potential for strawberry and weed seed
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Contact: Michael W. Neff
mwneff@ashs.org
703-836-4606
American Society for Horticultural Science
Source:Eurekalert  

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