Weed management systems for strawberries: a project to evaluate and to provide tools to assist growers in adopting alternative strategies

Project Code PRR07-800

Project Lead

Kevin Schooley - Ontario Berry Growers Association

Objective

To evaluate alternative tools for the management of weeds in strawberry production systems and to develop tools to assist growers in the adoption of these alternative weed management strategies

Summary of Results

Background

Strawberries are traditionally grown in a matted row system requiring large herbicide input. Currently weed management programs rely on older chemistries, some of which have been associated with human health risks, and potential for environmental risks. In addition, weed control and herbicides account for a major cost of production to growers. This project was undertaken to facilitate the adoption of strawberry production systems that reduce the need for herbicides through the use of modern extension techniques, study groups, web-based resources and field demonstrations.

Approaches

This project used a combination of approaches to bring stakeholders together and advance knowledge of strawberry production systems which reduce herbicide use. These included: an informal, virtual study group of growers; visits to growers by extension specialists; field days and grower tours; on-farm field trials and demonstrations and research trials.

To determine baseline information on herbicide use in traditional matted row production systems and to monitor the impact of new production systems on herbicide use, a baseline survey was conducted by the Ontario Berry Growers Association in Feb-March 2008.

Multiple demonstration and research trials were conducted for: runner management in strawberries; performance of new reduced-risk herbicides in plasticulture strawberries; effect of mulch type on winter injury and plant yield; evaluation of various mulch treatments in June-bearing plasticulture strawberries (under plastic) and evaluation of various herbicide treatments in June-bearing plasticulture strawberries.

Results

Information on runner management, reduced risk herbicides and row covers was learned through the various field trails. Field trials identified reduced risk products that were effective in strawberry runner management and effective, long-term residual weed control in alleyways. Weed management trials in plasticulture generated a great deal of discussion and were of particular interest to growers. Trials were also conducted comparing the use of floating row covers to straw mulch for overwintering day neutral strawberries. While straw mulch can bring weeds into a field and increase the need for grass herbicides, floating row covers also impact weed development by creating a warm protected environment which favours growth. However, in plasticuture production systems, the use of floating row covers together with day-neutral varieties, helped growers to extend the season at both ends of the traditional window for strawberry production. Future research will track and compare conditions under floating row cover, straw mulch and no protection at all, to determine potential implications.

Posters, presentations, and web-based information sheets highlighting integrated pest management solutions to weed problems have been developed using information generated by this project.

A major benefit of this project was the opportunity for sharing information among growers and extension specialists in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Working relationships have formed and collaborations will continue beyond the official closing date of this project.

Forty people have joined the on-line discussion group and new members were continuing to join as of the end date of the project. On farm visits and grower surveys provided information on production practices and barriers to adopting the use of new production systems. Thirty grower visits were made in 2007 and twenty nine in 2008. Five grower tours and field days took place in 2008 and 2009 and were both well attended.

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