Summary: A five-year research project involving multiple partners is proposed to develop and implement strategies to manage key strawberry diseases: Phytophthora (crown rot and red-core), powdery mildew, fruit rot complex, and wilt. The central focus of this project is to optimise and integrate non-fungicide alternatives with conventional fungicides. Furthermore, we shall study methods of improving spray coverage in tunnel crops. For crown rot and red core caused by Phytophthora spp. (crown rot and red-core), we shall focus on quantifying the extent of hidden infection in initial planting materials and identifying treatments to reduce plant losses due to these hidden infections. Research on powdery mildew centres on the integration of nutrients and resistance inducers with reduced fungicide input. For fruit rot complex, we shall investigate the integration of biocontrol products with reduced fungicides, and post-harvest handling to reduce fruit rot and/or delay rot development. For wilt control, the emphasis is on the use of anaerobic soil disinfestation and addition of beneficial bacteria to improve soil health. Finally, we shall join forces with entomologists (in the corresponding pest proposal) to identify ways to improve spray coverage. The research results will help growers to achieve better disease control without over reliance on fungicides.
Benefits to Industry:
This project will generate new knowledge that will assist growers in improving current disease control efficacy, including:
(1) Objective data on the extent of hidden infection by Phytophthora pathogens in initial planting materials; this information will enable growers to initiate effective discussions with nurseries about the need to reduce the hidden infection, and to decide the need for treatment at the time of transplanting. Combining with post-planting treatments, it is our aspiration to reduce plant loss caused by Phytophthora spp. by at least 60%.
(2) Alternative methods for management of different diseases; the nature of these methods may differ among diseases. These methods include biocontrol agents, various products that could induce plant defence against pathogens, and products that than generally enhance plant health or improve soil suppressiveness against soil-borne pathogens. For powdery mildew, the proposed research should lead to a minimum 30% reduction of fungicide input. For fruit rot, our primary aim is to reduce crop loss without additional fungicide input. For soil borne pathogens, the benefit is primarily expressed in terms of improved plant performance/fruit production in the absence of chemo-fumigation.
(3) For each disease, we shall deliver a set of recommended control application methodologies, taking into account disease epidemiology, crop phenology and commercial crop husbandry. This will also include strategies to improve spray coverage. The essence is to minimise the cost of implementing new control measures in commercial production. A set of recommendations for improving spray coverage will lead to improved disease control efficacy without increasing pesticide input.
The project will benefit consumers by providing growers with knowledge to produce fresh fruit with minimum input of synthetic chemicals and with reduced waste during the production phase. Thus consumers can buy home-grown fruit with confidence.
Similarly, the project deliverables will enable growers to adopt a production system/strategy that is environmentally more sustainable – reduce pollution due to excessive pesticide input and waste from fruit production
31 March 2015 - 31 March 2020
XIANGMING XU, NIAB EMR
Aims and objectives
Aims: A five-year research project is proposed to develop and to implement strategies to manage key strawberry diseases: Phytophthora (crown rot and red-core), powdery mildew, fruit rot complex, and wilt. The central aim of this project is to optimise and integrate non-fungicide alternatives with conventional fungicides.
(1) To quantify the extent of asymptomatic Phytophthora infections in relation to nursery sources and cultivars
(2) To quantify the effect of various alternatives (including biocontrol products, salts, plant growth promoting rhizobacteria [PGPR], nutrients and plant resistance elicitors) on various pathogens infecting above or below ground
(3) To integrate alternative products (as determined from objective 2) with reduced fungicide input in commercial strawberry production
(4) To develop better spraying techniques based on crop canopy structure and growth stage in order to improve spray coverage and gain better disease control