Sock It To Strawberry Diseases

By Charlie Nardozzi

Black root rot disease is a menace to strawberry growers. Plants with this soilborne disease often are short lived and produce few berries. For commercial operations, fumigating the soil with methyl bromide has been a widely used option to combat this disease. However, since this pesticide is being phased out of operation, growers are scrambling for alternatives. For small-scale and organic strawberry growers, one option is growing strawberry plants in compost-filled "socks."

USDA researchers in Maryland grew strawberries in the traditional matted row system and also in 8- to 24-inch-diameter mesh tube socks filled with compost. These socks are made from material commonly used for erosion control on banks and slopes. They were laid on top of the soil. The sock-grown strawberries not only had less black root rot disease, their yields were 16 to 32 percent higher than the control strawberry patch. Researchers believe the compost-filled socks provided a protective layer between the disease-laden topsoil and the strawberry plant roots. On a scale of 1 to 5 -- with 5 being totally free of root rot -- all but one of the strawberry varieties grown in the socks was rated a 4 or a 5.

For more information on this new research, go to: USDA Agricultural Research Service.

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