Methyl bromide has been the product of choice for pre-plant fumigation for strawberries for years. However, effective Jan. 1, the amount of fumigant available to growers will 50 percent than the amount of product available in 1991.

The decrease could reduce strawberry acreage and yields. Soil fumigation with methyl bromide accounts for 80 percent of its usage.

There are alternatives, but they carry restrictions.

Chemical alternatives to methyl bromide are being tested. In general, yields drop 10 to 30 percent when they are used. In California, Telone, Chloropicrin and Metam sodium are the fumigants of choice other than methyl bromide. However, the strawberry plant-back periods of four to six weeks longer than methyl bromide is a major concern for rotating strawberries after strawberries.

Telone has a 300-foot buffer zone if applied next to an occupied structure. Use is also limited to 5,000 to 9,000 gallons per year within a township. This means it would not be available to other township growers after those use levels are reached.

Chloropicrin also has restrictions.

Metham sodium can improve weed control and can be used immediately following other fumigant applications. Lack of good weed control will be one major fallout from the loss of methyl bromide. Hand-weeding strawberries under plastic is very expensive.

Study may reduce peach crop inputs Some of the sweetest, juiciest peaches in the world come from the sunny orchards of California's central valley. A three-year study being conducted by Agricultural Research Service scientists and their university colleagues may help California growers cut back the amount of water and fertilizer currently used to produce the luscious fruit.

Researchers are varying the timing and amount of water and nitrogen fertilizer that they apply to about 1,800 young peach trees in an experimental orchard at Parlier, Calif. They're looking for differences in growth that result from delivering varying amounts of water through furrows, sprayers called microjets, or drip-irrigation tubing.

The scientists fitted the orchard with more than 500 probes and sensors to monitor the amount of water in the soil and the supply of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. The researchers also are using a miniature video camera to scrutinize root growth.

The study, now in its second year, focuses on young peach trees because very little is known about their water and nutrient needs. That's according to ARS plant physiologist David R. Bryla at Fresno, Calif. He leads the investigation.