Leahy says the action plan offers direction to both short and long term solutions.

“Short term, anaerobic soil disinfestation looks pretty promising. Steam injection as well as solarization also works well,” said Leahy, who has farmed both in California and Nebraska. Long term, breeding for resistance to soilborne pests offers the ultimate solution.

“We need to start working with soil life. It is a key component of farming. Our ancestors understood that, and we need to go back to it,” he said.

The working group plan is the first to tackle the problem. Leahy said it is a continuation of what growers are already researching. “There is some promising work already being done, and we need to get it out so growers can try it on a larger scale. We need to have researchers and educators explain it to growers so they can make those changes,” he said.

 

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Leahy has high praise for the strawberry industry. He called them “like the canary in the mine” who are willing to gamble heavily on finding solutions.

“I have been on farms doing some great research ... like Driscoll where they did a lot of research on cover corps only to find that they often compound the problem. That is the kind of research we need to do.

“There are a lot of innovative strawberry growers out there working with soils. It is pretty risky when you consider how much of an investment they have in crops. They are the true leaders in this effort,” he said.

The action plan complements DPR’s research partnership with the California Strawberry Commission. The focus of the $500,000, three-year research project announced in March is growing strawberries in peat or substances other than soil. It also complements DPR’s new research grant program, which includes $500,000 annually for grants that DPR would award for researching production practices that reduce reliance on fumigants and other high-risk pesticides.

The working group, research partnership and grant program are paid for out of the special fund generated by fees that support DPR’s programs. The group includes: Chair: Leahy.

Members:

  • Greg Browne, Research Plant Pathologist and Director, USDA Western Areawide Program for Methyl Bromide Alternatives, Davis
  • Steve Fennimore, University of California, Davis, Extension weed specialist
  • Anne Katten, California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation, Sacramento
  • Karen Klonsky, Cooperative Extension economists, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, UC Davis
  • Rod Koda, Strawberry grower, Watsonville
  • Dan Legard, Vice President of Research and Education, California Strawberry Commission, Watsonville
  • Pam Marrone, Founder and chief executive officer, Marrone Bio Innovations, Davis
  • Gary Obenauf, Agricultural research consultant and chair of the Methyl Bromide Alternatives Conference, Fresno
  • Carol Shennan, Professor of Agroecology, UC Santa Cruz
  • John Steggall, Office of Pesticide Consultation and Analysis, California Department of Food and Agriculture, Sacramento.

More information about DPR is posted at www.cdpr.ca.gov.

Link to action plan: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pestmgt/strawberry/work_group/action_plan.pdf

Link to working group bios: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pestmgt/strawberry/work_group/members.htm

Link to Strawberry Research Partnership website: http://www.cdpr.ca.gov/docs/pestmgt/strawberry/partnership.htm

The California Strawberry Commission is a state government agency that represents 500 growers.

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