By Clint Thompson
Last year presented its share of challenges for Florida strawberry growers; imports, heavy insect pressure and low market prices early in the season, just to name a few. None compared to Neopestalotiopsis Fruit Rot disease, however.
The disease that one producer dubbed the citrus greening of strawberries is on the minds of Florida producers with plantings still a few months away.
“I think all of us have a mix of optimism but also some healthy concern due to the Neopestalotiopsis disease. I honestly just feel like it’s real mix and growers are going to be really kind of on their toes seeing what happens with this disease next season; whether it stays the same, gets better or gets worse,” said Vance Whitaker, strawberry breeder at the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center.
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 was first discovered during the 2018-19 season in five farms and was attributed to one nursery source in North Carolina.
More than 20 farms experienced the disease during the 2019-20 season. It was attributed to two nursery sources early in the season in North Carolina and Canada. It was discovered this year in fields that had it the prior season.
Plantings for this year’s strawberry crop will begin the last week of September through Oct. 20-25. Whitaker said most of the crop will be planted between Oct. 5-15.