Strawberry Newsletter 2014-1

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

To remove or not to remove – that is the question!

As you know, two virus testing surveys were conducted in 2013. The first was conducted in the spring and was designed to elaborate the distribution of the two strawberry viruses around the province while the second was conducted in late summer and sought to ascertain the level of infections in newly planted strawberry fields. Individual farm results have been reported to the grower with interpretations and in some cases a recommendation to remove the field for inoculum control as we work to recover from the devastating effects of these viruses. I’d like to take this one step further and ask all of you to consider the question of field removal in light of the strawberry assistance program announced in December.

The assistance program is essentially a replant program for fields removed for virus management. It does not stipulate a level of virus for eligibility nor a requirement for both viruses in the testing results. Essentially, if fields were intended to be cropped in 2013 or 2014 and have already been removed, or will be removed for virus management prior to May 15ththis coming spring, they would be eligible for replant assistance.  The only stipulation is that they couldn’t have been planted before 2009 or be coming out as part of your normal replant schedule. They also have to be independently measured for acreage by Crop Insurance and you have to provide copies of receipts showing you have purchased plants to replant the acreage removed for virus management. In my opinion it is an excellent program to consider if you have a level of virus in your fields and wish to help in the fight against the two viruses.

Recovery from the virus epidemic is dependent on three things – 1) planting new fields with virus tested stock, 2) aggressive removal of infected fields, and 3) control of the transmission vector, the strawberry aphid. Nova Scotia nursery stock was virus tested in 2013 so inspected stock from these nurseries meets the criterion for replant assistance. An aphid monitoring program was initiated in 2013 to help growers effectively manage strawberry aphid and it is hoped this program will continue in 2014 as we try to optimize vector control, the third point in the list above. However, we have too much virus inoculum in our existing fields and we need to remove as many as possible, as quickly as possible, to optimize the recovery process.

The one area I haven’t commented on is how much is too much virus? In my opinion the viruses are here to stay but we need to reduce them to levels below 5% before production and management returns to normal levels. As such, any test results that show a level of either virus above 5% should be considered for removal. Note that this would include fields with only one virus that would otherwise be expected to produce normally in 2014 so my recommendation is pretty aggressive. However, it is not as aggressive as Dr. Martin’s recommendation in the “industry recovery strategy” that allfruiting fields come out in 2013.

It will be a difficult decision to remove a field that has only one virus or even low levels of both that would still be expected to produce normally in 2014; however, my encouragement to consider doing so is based on the need to reduce existing inoculum levels if we are to return to normal as soon as possible. The replant program can assist in this but will not replace the lost revenue of a crop terminated before harvest next spring. However, for the betterment of the industry and your long-term viability I hope you will give the question careful consideration over the coming weeks.  For a copy of the program guidelines and application form please click the link.If you have any questions contact the Program and Business Risk Management office in Truro – their number is on the front page of the guidelines. For fields that you decide you would like to remove and need them measured please contact Mike Burry in the Program and BRM office to facilitate the arrangements with crop insurance.  His number is 893-6581 (or toll free at 1-866-844-4276).

 Advances in Berry Production Workshop March 20th

For those interested in the most up-to-date information on advanced berry (day-neutral strawberry and high-tunnel raspberry) production systems, there is an excellent looking two-day workshop scheduled for March 20-21st in Guelph Ontario. Please click on the link to see if this is a workshop you would like to attend.

 Virus management workshop on April 2nd

A strawberry virus management workshop is scheduled for 1-5 p.m. on April 2ndin the Cornwallis Room at the Kentville Research Station. All growers and industry stakeholders are encouraged to attend this workshop that will provide an up-to-date review of all strawberry virus related information. The meeting will also be webcast to Department of Agriculture regional offices in Bible Hill and Sydney for growers in these areas that do not wish to make the long drive to Kentville. Please click the link to the meeting agenda for details on the various presentations scheduled for the workshop.  See you in April!