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Strawberry young plant nurseries await test results

Canada: Industry’s future may depend on eradicating virus

The latest round of tests for highly destructive viruses may determine the future of the strawberry nursery industry in Nova Scotia, say farmers.

“I’m on pins and needles and keeping my fingers crossed, hopefully to get through this,” Charles Keddy, owner of one of the largest strawberry plant nurseries in the province, said in an interview with the Chronicle Herald on Tuesday.

“We’ve cleared the first round of testing and now we’re waiting for results to come back on the second round,” said Keddy, whose Lakeville, Kings County, farm exports most of its plants to the United States.

Test results have been sent to a specialized laboratory in British Columbia and are expected back by the end of this week.

Growers have been plagued this year with wide-spread destruction caused by two strawberry viruses carried by aphids. The disease weakens the plants, resulting in stunted or no berries.

Keddy plans to begin harvesting next week to export 10 million young plants to Florida. Another six million will be harvested for markets in Canada and northern US States.

His costs are up this year, with about $1.25 million invested even before he starts harvesting. Much of that is for aphid control in an attempt to keep the viruses off his farm.

“Every year when you go out there and plant a crop, especially when you have an operation as big as ours, you put everything on the line,” Keddy said of his 36-hectare farm.

“If the tests come back positive, we couldn’t dig the plants,” he added. “I don’t know if our farm could withstand that kind of a loss.”

There are five strawberry plant nurseries in Nova Scotia, all of them dependent to varying degrees on the Florida market. The southern state imports about 35 million strawberry plants a year from this province, worth about $6 million to farmers.

Another $4 million is sold to the northern market, while the fruit industry itself is worth about $10 million, for a total industry value of about $20 million a year.

Click here for the complete article at the Herald

Source: The Herald
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