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Strawberry and Ornamental Production without Methyl Bromide Employing Grower-Directed Alternative Pest Management Research and Outreach


To develop effective alternative pest management systems and outreach strategies that allow cost-efficient production of strawberry and ornamental crops while reducing methyl bromide consumption, increasing registration of new products and area-wide adoption of alternative practices by the California strawberry and ornamental industries. Specific Objectives are to: <ol> <LI> Further develop and adopt existing and emerging fumigant and non-fumigant alternatives to methyl bromide for control of soil-borne plant pathogens, nematodes and weeds in California strawberries. 2. Develop and adopt methyl bromide alternative fumigants to replace "hot gas" practice for soil disinfestation for ornamental crop production in protected environments, and evaluate and adopt new post-plant pest management practices for improved efficacy and longevity of pre-plant soil fumigation for field-grown ornamentals. 3. Prepare a comprehensive economic evaluation of alternative fumigant and/or non-fumigant pest management practices as compared to the standard soil fumigation with methyl bromide/chloropicrin. 4. Continuously increase grower awareness of alternative techniques through field days, workshops, trainings, and panel discussions with strawberry and ornamental growers; review viability and implementation of proposed practices with stakeholder's advisory teams, and collaborating growers. 5. Build a website within existing UC Davis and ANR websites to provide current project information, photographs and educational materials (update website at least four times per year), obtain feedback on projects and area-wide implementation of alternative techniques.

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Non-Technical Summary: The California strawberry and ornamental crop industries are economically important components of the US agriculture that are produced on 65 and 23 % of their respective crop acreage in the US. In 2006, the total annual value for strawberries in California was estimated at $1.2 billion (80% of the total crop value in the US). The total annual value for floral and nursery products in California in 2006 was estimated at $3.7 billion (26% of the total crop value in the US). Strawberry and ornamental growers in California are facing similar challenges to sustain commodity production under increasingly stringent pesticide use regulations, imposed by the Clean Air Act, the Montreal Protocol, and other laws and regulations. Soil fumigation with methyl bromide/chloropicrin was an integral part of pest management in both commodities controlling a broad spectrum of soil-borne pathogens, nematodes, and weeds, and ensuring high crop yield and quality under California's intensive production systems. Although, various alternative fumigants have been identified to replace methyl bromide, these systems may not be universally feasible due to field topography, soil types, regulatory constraints, lack of performance demonstration and grower awareness. Finding feasible alternative fumigant and non-fumigant pest control practices will be vital to strawberry and ornamental production in the future. The proposed project focuses on research/demonstration and educational outreach (extension). The research/demonstration program will provide data from replicated large-scale field trials with commercial growers to assist in the decision-making of growers during the selection of best alternative pest management practices, and demonstration plots for other growers in the area. The focus of the extension program is to develop and implement an educational outreach program to increase grower and public awareness of alternative technologies, and assist in grower-directed development and adoption of alternative technologies targeting site-specific pest pressures, soil and regulatory situations. The ultimate goals of this project are to develop and implement alternative pest management systems that reduce the methyl bromide consumption by California strawberry and ornamental growers without compromising the economical viability of farm businesses. Surveys will be conducted to evaluate implementation of alternative practices. The outcome of this project is applicable to many crop commodities using soil fumigation because of the broad pest spectrum investigated. <P> Approach: In this multidisciplinary project, research/demonstration trials will be established along the central and southern coast of California in major commercial strawberry and ornamental crop production areas. On-farm research trials coupled with technology transfer through educational outreach and teaching programs are targeted to increase grower and public awareness of methyl bromide alternative pest management practices and assist with the implementation of alternative techniques to reduce methyl bromide consumption by California's strawberry and ornamental crop industry without compromising long-term viability of farm businesses. For strawberry production, on-farm trials will be established with commercial strawberry growers in major production areas in coastal California in fall of 2008 to test new drip-fumigant and non-fumigant treatments, and mulch types for pest management (weeds, nematodes, soil-borne pathogens) in strawberries. Trials will be maintained at the same ground over two growing seasons. Alternative fumigant treatments will be compared to the standard methyl bromide/ chloropicrin soil fumigation, and an untreated control. Commercial agricultural practices for strawberry production in the area will be followed. On-farm trials to test pest control efficacy of pre-plant soil fumigation with methyl bromide alternatives in protected environments (i.e., shade and greenhouses) and post-plant treatments to improve longevity of pre-plant soil fumigation in open fields will be established with growers in coastal California in fall 2008 and spring 2009. Alternative fumigant treatments will be compared to the commercial standard methyl bromide/chloropicrin treatment, and an untreated control. Commercial horticultural production practices will be followed. Viability of alternative treatments will be evaluated by phytotoxicity tests, and estimation of survival of weed seeds, native weed populations, nematodes and pathogens in bioassay samples and soils following standard laboratory procedures and field evaluations at regular intervals over the crop cycle. Final evaluation of plant growth parameters including crop yield and quality will be conducted at the end of each crop cycle. All demonstration trials will involve cost-benefit analysis of alternative pest management systems relative to the methyl bromide/chloropicrin standard. The outreach component includes field days and seminars on alternative practices, and information dissemination via the internet and print media. Surveys will be conducted to evaluate implementation of alternative practices.

Ajwa, Husein
University of California - Davis
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