Biocontrol: How strawberry growers are leading the way

According to Dr. Surendra Dara of the University of California Cooperative Extension, 90-95% of strawberry growers in California use predatory mites to manage two-spotted spider mites. But how did this pest control method get so widely adopted? What can growers of other crops learn from this experience? 

Lane Stoeckle, a certified crop advisor and pest control advisor (PCA) based in Southern California, discusses this topic in this article. Together with his father Lee, Lane owns an independent consulting business that provides scouting, plant protection, fertility, and irrigation recommendation to both conventional and organic strawberry growers as well as to a growing number of blackberry growers.

Lane explains that in agriculture, change does not happen unless there is a catalyst that prompts that change. Those catalysts can either be “push” motivated such as evolving regulations, changing environmental and/or pest conditions, or “pull motivated” such as the benefits offered by emerging technology. “In the 1980s, the go-to miticide in strawberry was called Plictran. Eventually, chemical resistance for that product built up to a point where the spray didn’t work at all. It was like spraying water.” 

The primary catalyst which motivated forward-looking growers such as Richard Nelson and Tom Jones to start using the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis as their main control method was the rise of chemical resistance. Later on, in the 1990s, people such as Lane’s father, Lee Stoeckle, started to widely commercialize P. persimilis in Southern California. 

Read the complete article at www.freshfruitportal.com.


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