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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Land access and costs may drive strawberry growers' increased use of fumigation


2016 marked the year of the final phaseout of methyl bromide for use in strawberry production. During the long phaseout period, one replacement fumigant met so much public opposition it was taken off the market, while restrictions on use of other fumigants increased. As part of a larger study on the challenges facing the strawberry industry, I tracked fumigant use through California's pesticide use reporting system from 2004 to 2013. During the last few years before the phaseout, I interviewed 74 growers in the four main strawberry production regions about how they were now managing soilborne pests. As a general trend, growers had increased their use of chloropicrin and switched from broadcast fumigation to bed fumigation, and many were experimenting with organics. At the same time, significant percentages of growers were reluctant to change fumigation regimes or adopt nonchemical options of pathogen control. Some were unable to adopt less chemical-intensive methods because of land access conditions and land costs. Given these land-related obstacles, policymakers ought to consider strategies that will incentivize transitions to nonchemical alternatives and mitigate the financial risks.

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