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Strawberry growers are unlikely to forgo soil fumigation with disease-resistant cultivars alone

  • Author(s): Guthman, Julie;
  • et al.
Abstract

A major collaborative project launched in 2017 to accelerate the development of disease-resistant strawberry cultivars is responding urgently to two developments: increasing restrictions on fumigant use and the appearance of two novel pathogens not evidently manageable with allowed fumigants. As part of that project, I sought to understand the factors that guide growers' cultivar choice and assess their willingness to choose a pathogen-resistant cultivar to reduce or potentially replace fumigation. From a survey completed by 33 strawberry growers and in-depth interviews with 20 growers, I found that most growers prioritize yield in choosing cultivars, despite the industrywide problem with low prices. Few growers said they would be willing to substitute disease-resistant cultivars for fumigation without fail-safe disease control methods. Many growers, even those with existing organic programs, would opt for soilless systems in a tighter regulatory environment. This study thus suggests that disease resistance breeding must be coupled with support for other disease management techniques, and the economic situation that makes growers feel that they cannot forgo yield also needs attention.

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