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How to Manage Pests

UC Pest Management Guidelines


Strawberry fields near Watsonville, California.

Strawberry

Field Selection

(Reviewed 6/08, updated 6/08)

In this Guideline:


To reduce management costs, select fields with desirable characteristics and a minimum of potential pest problems.

  • Deep, well‑drained, sandy loam soils are preferred for strawberry production because field preparation is easier, fumigation is more effective, accumulation of salts is less, drainage is better, and the soil is better suited to the frequent irrigation and field activity that strawberries require.
  • Choose fields that are easy to grade to the proper slope and have good air drainage so cold air doesn't settle in the field.
  • Avoid poorly drained soils to minimize problems with root diseases such as Phytophthora root and crown rot.
  • Avoid fields infested with hard‑to‑control weeds such as field bindweed, nutsedge, mallow, and clovers.
  • Ensure an adequate supply of good‑quality water. Make sure that soil and field conditions allow you to maximize use of available water to grow strawberries.
  • Have the soil and water tested for salts and salinity. If the water supply has more than 900 to 1000 ppm total salts, special precautions will be needed to avoid injurious salt buildup. If salt levels are too high you may want to avoid planting strawberries or else plan extra irrigations to rinse excess salts away from the strawberry root zone. Irrigations to reduce soil salinity are best done before preparing fields for fumigation and planting and can take years to improve conditions measurably.
  • Have the soil tested for problems with boron and zinc.
  • Check to be sure herbicides with long residual life were not used on the previous crop.

Cropping History

Anaccurate field history will help you evaluate the effectiveness of management actions and make long‑term planning easier. (It may be useful to organize information in a spreadsheet, combining all data from a given field for several years in a single document.) For each field, keep records of:

  • Routine field surveys, including dates and GPS locations;
  • Weed surveys;
  • Results of laboratory analyses such as soil tests, water tests, and pest identifications;
  • Horticultural information, including cultivars, planting dates, source of transplants, harvest dates, and yields;
  • Records of pesticide applications, including materials and rates, and their effectiveness.

Check Potential Problems Before Planting

Before you begin preparing your fields for planting, a number of monitoring activities are important in helping you plan your pest management program for the season.

  • Consult field records for cropping history, cultural practices, pesticide use, and problems with pests, soil conditions, and salinity. Check plant-back restrictions from herbicides used in the previous crop.
  • Survey the field for weeds and record your results (example form111 KB, PDF). You may want to avoid planting strawberries if infestations of field bindweed or yellow nutsedge or high densities of little mallow or burclover are present.
  • Collect samples of irrigation water and field soil for analysis of salinity, nutrient levels, and microbial contaminants.
  • Survey adjacent areas for pests that may move into strawberries: for example, infestations of twospotted spider mites, whiteflies, cutworms, or armyworms; weed hosts of lygus bugs; potential sources of root weevils; weeds with wind-dispersed seed; signs of vertebrates such as ground squirrels, gophers, voles, or moles.
  • If possible, visit nurseries where you plan to get your transplants to learn about their pest control programs and management practices.

Crop Rotation

Rotating strawberries with a cover crop such as rye, barley, or a mix of barley and bell beans may enhance pest control and helps improve soil structure. A heavy stand of cereal rye or barley provides additional weed control because these crops are very competitive with weeds and broadleaf herbicides may be used to control weeds that can be serious problems in strawberries. In addition, rye and barley do not host pests that attack strawberries and can help reduce root knot nematode populations and soil levels of Verticillium, although significant disease control requires long-term rotations.

Mustards generally are the best weed competitors among commonly used cover crops, and their residue breaks down faster compared to cereals. Additionally, mulched mustard residue reduces viability of Phytophthora in the soil.

Rotation with vegetable crops may allow additional weed control options and provide economic returns. Incorporation of broccoli residues may reduce levels of soil pathogens including Verticillium. Winter vegetable operations can result in soil compaction and deterioration of soil structure. Incorporation of cover crop residue loosens the soil and can help improve soil drainage. Be sure to allow enough time for the cover crop to decompose before preparing the field for strawberry planting.

Long-term use of soil amendments can improve soil structure and drainage.

IMPORTANT LINKS

PUBLICATION

[UC Peer Reviewed]

UC IPM Pest Management Guidelines: Strawberry
UC ANR Publication 3468
General Information
M. P. Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension Santa Cruz County
O. Daugovish, UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County
S. T. Koike, UC Cooperative Extension Monterey County
K. D. Larson, Pomology, South Coast Res. and Ext. Ctr.
P. A. Phillips, UC IPM Program/UC Cooperative Extension Ventura County

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