FSGA Hosts 'Mini' Field Day Fostering Grower - Researcher Dialogue
By Jim Frankowiak
January is typically a busy month for strawberry growers, but it’s also a good time for them to update researchers on the challenges of the season and for researchers to bring growers up-to-date on their various initiatives. To accomplish both, the Florida Strawberry Growers Association hosted a Mini-Field Day at its headquarters east of Plant City.
The session began with an update from Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) Director Dr. Jack Rechcigl, who reported on office and graduate student dorm expansions at the center as well as the introduction of new molecular biologist Dr. Seonghee Lee and horticulturalist Dr. Shinsuke Agehara, Dr. Rechcigl also told the attendees that he was awaiting response from the top candidate for the strawberry entomologist vacancy at the GCREC. “We appreciate the ongoing support from the growers for many of the advances taking place at the center,” he said.
Agricultural economist Dr. Zhengfei Guan reported on the varied challenges and economic issues he is studying. They range from Mexican competition and labor issues to escalating production costs, pest and disease management to production and market risks and research and development considerations, as well as licensing strategies for new cultivars.
Opportunities under study by Dr. Guan include branding strategies, targeted marketing and other initiatives to stimulate consumer demand. His efforts regarding industry labor issues will include the feasibility and profitability of mechanical harvesting.
Growers and other attendees were given an update on the incidence of strawberry diseases during the current season by plant pathologist Dr. Natalia Peres. She noted it has been a particularly favorable season for Botrytis given the weather conditions that have occurred. In addition to her presentation, Dr. Peres entertained questions and comments from the audience regarding various practices for disease management. She also distributed a Summary Efficacy Guide for Strawberry Fungicides.
The group then gathered at the adjacent strawberry fields for updates on weed control, an update on new varieties and the latest information on nematode control.
Retired professor and strawberry breeder Dr. Craig Chandler, who continues his involvement at the center during the season, led the tour of new cultivars, particularly the ‘Florida 127’, discussing fruit and plant characteristics, field performance, plant establishment, fertilization and irrigation, as well as disease management.
Weed scientist Dr.Nathan Boyd led a discussion regarding recommended weed control practices for the second use of plastics for spring vegetables grown after the conclusion of the strawberry season, essentially bridging the gap for weed control from one crop to another.
Dr. Joseph Noling from the Citrus Research and Education Center reported on the most recent findings of his studies on Sting Nematodes and management in the field. His update included the findings of a study undertaken with the use of a deep soil exploration tool, The Probinator, to depths up to 40-inches. His study findings support the recommended injection of fumigants at the end of the growing season to help further control nematodes with particular emphasis on the new, Prebed Deep Shank Treatment which pushes fumigants deeper.
“In addition to providing a great opportunity for dialogue, events such as this field day are good opportunities for growers to share information regarding individual challenges with other growers and researchers that often lead to solutions for their respective issues,” said Extension Agent and Field Day organizer and program moderator Alicia Whidden.
Copies of the presentations and informational materials provided attendees at the Mini-Field Day are available by visiting: http://grcre.ifas.ufl.edu.