15229241Project seeks biological disease control for organic strawberries

Russ Wallace’s strawberries are full, ripe and darn good-looking.

The trick is to keep them that way without conventional pesticides.

Wallace, a fruit and vegetable specialist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, has a new project.

Funded through a $246,413 grant from Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, the project name “Evaluating organic pest control products for strawberries in combination with low tunnels for limited-resource farmers in the Mid-South” is fairly self-explanatory. You can’t use the same array of pesticides with organic strawberries as you can with conventional fruits, but you’re not completely defenseless against disease and bugs, either.

“Our main emphasis is to find biological control projects,” Wallace said.

An extra-wet spring last year put Texas strawberries at an increased disease risk. By harvest time, some growers lost up to 90 percent of their crop.

Wallace’s project will study up to 10 products certified for use on organic acreage.

“We want to make sure they work before we recommend them,” he said.

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