By Clint Thompson
Florida strawberry growers are on the brink of planting this season’s crop. One University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) expert is cautioning producers about disease control.
One disease specifically comes to mind, says Natalia Peres, professor of plant pathology at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
“I think Neopestalotiopsis is still a major concern. Last year it wasn’t really as bad as we anticipated, in part because we had great weather. It was mostly dry, and we didn’t get much rain,” Peres said. “Rain is really what pushes that disease. Hopefully, growers understand that it was the weather that helped us out last year. We had a La Niña last year, but we are expecting an El Niño this upcoming season. El Niños usually bring wet weather to central Florida and particularly during the strawberry season of December, January and February. I think we should still be concerned about that one.”
Neopestalotiopsis causes leaf spots on strawberry plants. It develops quickly and produces spores on the leaves. It can cause severe leaf spotting and fruit rot under favorable weather conditions. The disease has been a concern ever since it was first discovered during the 2018-19 season across five farms in Florida. It was attributed to one nursery source in North Carolina.
More than 20 farms experienced the disease during the 2019-20 season, and the disease was attributed to two nursery sources early in the season in North Carolina and Canada. It was also discovered during the 2020-21 seasons in fields that had it the prior season.