California Central Coast strawberry growers Jerry Cardenas and Vividiana Gomez peered over their fields in late July with a solemn look ingrained on their faces.

A strawberry disease called pallidosis-related decline (pallidosis, for short) was killing their strawberry plants, and robbing the growers of fruit and income to pay the bills.

“I estimate my losses at about $300,000 from the disease on about 31 acres of strawberries,” said Cardenas, a second-generation grower.

Cardenas is the owner of Big J Produce near Santa Maria in Santa Barbara County, the third-largest strawberry-producing county in California.

“This is a serious financial loss for us,” Cardenas said.

Want access to the very latest in agriculture news each day? Sign up for the Western Farm Press Daily e-mail newsletter.

Cardenas’ farm is located in the heart of the Santa Maria Valley, about seven miles east of the Central Coast.

Cardenas is one of about 400 strawberry growers in California. Combined, these growers earned about $2 billion in farm income in 2011 from about 38,000 acres of berries.

About a dozen of Cardenas’ 90 acres of strawberries were severely infected with the disease. Of the two strawberry varieties grown, the most damage was in the San Andreas variety. The BG-1975 variety had less damage.

Cardenas removed 50, 40-inch strawberry beds with 75 percent to 100 percent of pallidosis disease. About 75 beds were 35-50 percent infected.

Cardenas is growing strawberries on a one-year land lease.