Posts Tagged: Strawberries
Thinking about commercially growing organic strawberries on the Central Coast?
To help prospective and current growers evaluate financial feasibility, the University of California has estimated costs to produce and harvest organic strawberries for fresh market in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.
“This revise of the last cost-of-production study incorporates the newest in labor costs along with updates on cultural techniques,” said study co-author Mark Bolda, UC Cooperative Extension strawberries and caneberries advisor in Santa Cruz, San Benito and Monterey counties.
The new study, “Sample Costs to Produce and Harvest Organic Strawberries in the Central Coast Region-2022,” has been released by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources and UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
The analysis is based on a hypothetical well-managed organic strawberry farm using practices common to the region, but the costs, materials and practices shown in this study will not apply to all farms. Growers, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisors and specialists, pest control advisers and others provided input and reviewed the methods and findings of the study.
“Current growers can use it as a baseline to compare with their own cost and returns estimates to make sure they have an accurate picture of the profitability of their organic strawberry enterprise,” said co-author Brittney Goodrich, UC Cooperative Extension agricultural economics specialist. “Many agricultural lenders use these studies as a baseline to determine whether to approve operating or investment loan requests from current and potential strawberry growers.”
The researchers assume a farm operation size of 30 contiguous acres of rented land, with strawberries are planted on 27 acres. The study includes a list of suitable strawberry varieties for the region, but no specific variety is used in the study. The crop is harvested by hand and packed into trays containing eight 1-pound clamshells from April through early October, with peak harvest in June through August.
The authors describe the assumptions used to identify current costs for production material inputs and cash and non-cash overhead. Ranging analysis tables show net profits over a range of prices and yields. Other tables show the monthly cash costs, the costs and returns per acre, hourly equipment costs, and the whole farm annual equipment, investment and business overhead costs.
The study's expanded section on labor includes information on California's new minimum wage and overtime laws.
“It's reached a wider audience this time through presentations of the material to students at Cal Poly [San Luis Obispo] and also a group of USDA officials at the California Strawberry Commission,” said Bolda.
“All of this just underlines the value of these studies to California growers and others working in agriculture,” Bolda said.
Free copies of this study and other sample cost of production studies for many commodities are available. To download the cost studies, visit the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics website at https://coststudies.ucdavis.edu.
This cost and returns study was funded by the UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
For additional information or an explanation of the calculations used in the studies, contact Jeremy Murdock, UC Davis Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics, at email@example.com or UC Cooperative Extension's Bolda at (831) 763-8025.
Resistant varieties to be released later this year to growers
Strawberry losses from Fusarium wilt could become less of a threat after researchers at the University of California, Davis, discovered genes that are resistant to the deadly soilborne disease.
The findings, published in the journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics, are the culmination of several years' work, and the discovery will help protect against disease losses, said Steve Knapp, director of the Strawberry Breeding Program at the college.
“What we've accomplished here is important and it's valuable for the industry and it's going to protect growers,” Knapp said.
Strawberries are a key crop in California, where about 1.8 billion pounds of the nutritious fruit are grown each year, making up roughly 88% of what is harvested in the United States.
Finding the genes could prevent a Fusarium wilt pandemic.
“The disease has started to appear more often up and down the state,” said Glenn Cole, a breeder and field manager with the Strawberry Breeding Program. “Once the wilt gets in, the plant just crashes. You have total die out.”
Searching for resistance
UC Davis scientists screened thousands of strawberry plants in the college nursery and took DNA samples. They then used genetic screening and developed DNA diagnostics to identify genes that are resistant to the primary race of Fusarium wilt.
“The genes have been floating around in the strawberry germplasm for thousands of years,” Cole said, but no one worked to identify them.
This latest development brings “strawberry into the 21st century in terms of solving this problem,” Knapp said.
Protecting future crops
This work means breeders can introduce the resistant gene into future strawberry varieties. This fall the program will release new cultivars that have the Fusarium wilt resistance gene. And the DNA diagnostic tools will help breeders respond to new Fusarium wilt variants that develop.
“There will be new threats and we want to be prepared for them,” Knapp said. “We want to understand how this works in strawberries so that as new threats emerge, we can address them as rapidly as possible.”
“If you don't have fusarium resistance, you're done,” Cole said. “The disease could be around more than you think.”
Fusarium wilt hasn't traditionally been an issue but when the fumigant methyl bromide was phased out in 2005, things changed. The disease was in the soil and without the fumigant, instances of wilt increased, especially in areas where crops weren't rotated.
Breeding new varieties
Knapp and Cole have informed the industry about current strawberry varieties that have the resistance so they can select plants with that added protection. The new resistant varieties coming out later this year will be suitable for several growing seasons.
“It's a big deal,” Cole said. “Everything is incremental in plant breeding, but it's a big deal.”
Plant scientists have been breeding strawberries at UC Davis since the 1930s and they have released more than 60 patented varieties through the public breeding program.
All of the work happened at UC Davis. Dominique Pincot, Mitchell Feldmann, Mishi Vachev, Marta Bjornson, Alan Rodriguez, Randi Famula and Gitta Coaker from the Department of Plant Sciences, and Thomas Gordon from the Department of Plant Pathology contributed to the research, as did Michael Hardigan and Peter Henry who are now at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service and Nicholas Cobo who is at University of La Frontera in Chile.
The research was funded by UC Davis and grants from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
Natural habitat maximizes the benefits of birds for farmers, food safety and conservation
A supportive environment can bring out the best in an individual — even for a bird.
After an E.coli outbreak in 2006 devastated the spinach industry, farmers were pressured to remove natural habitat to keep wildlife — and the foodborne pathogens they can sometimes carry — from visiting crops. A study published today from the University of California, Davis, shows that farms with surrounding natural habitat experience the most benefits from birds, including less crop damage and lower food-safety risks.
The study, published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, was conducted at 21 strawberry fields along California's Central Coast. It found that birds were more likely to carry pathogens and eat berries without surrounding natural habitat.
The authors said a better understanding of the interplay of farming practices, the landscape, and the roles birds play in ecosystems can help growers make the most out of wild birds near their fields.
“Bird communities respond to changes in the landscape,” said lead author Elissa Olimpi, a postdoctoral scholar in the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at the time of the study. “As birds shift in response to management, so do the costs and benefits they provide.”
The single most important driver
The study looked at how different farming practices influenced the costs and benefits that wild birds provided on the strawberry farms. The scientists combined nearly 300 bird surveys and the molecular analyses of more than 1,000 fecal samples from 55 bird species to determine which birds ate pests, beneficial insects and crops, and carried foodborne pathogens.
They also ranked birds to see which were more likely to bring benefits or costs to farmlands. Barn swallows, for instance, got a “gold star” in the study, Olimpi said. Their mud nests are commonly seen clinging to the underside of barn eaves, from which they fly out to swoop over fields, foraging on insects.
But rather than resulting in a list of “good” and “bad” birds, the study found that most bird species brought both costs and benefits to farms, depending on how the landscape was managed.
The presence of natural habitat was the single most important driver differentiating a farm where wild birds brought more benefits than harm.
“Nature is messy, and birds are complex,” Olimpi said. “The best we can do is understand how to take advantage of the benefits while reducing the harms. Growers will tell you it's impossible to keep birds off your farm — you can't do that and don't want to from a conservation perspective. So how can we take advantage of the services birds provide?”
Win-wins for birds and farms
The study is one of several publications from UC Davis Professor Daniel Karp's lab highlighting the environmental, agricultural, and food safety impacts of conserving bird habitat around farms. A related study in 2020 found that farms with natural habitat attracted more insect-eating birds — and fewer strawberry-eating birds — so that farmers experience less berry damage on farms with more habitat nearby. Such habitats also bring greater numbers of bird species to the landscape.
“All together, these studies suggest that farming landscapes with natural habitat tend to be good for conservation, farmers, and public health,” said Karp.
Additional co-authors of this study include Karina Garcia and David Gonthier of University of Kentucky, Claire Kremen of UC Berkeley and the University of British Columbia, William E. Snyder of University of Georgia, and Erin Wilson-Rankin of UC Riverside.
The research was funded by the USDA and UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology./h3>/h3>/h2>
If you only have time to read this much: pectin is vegan-friendly.
I was having lunch at an outdoor venue with a lovely vegetarian friend. When we got around to all things canning, I told her how excited I was to try a sugar-free jam recipe using a particular pectin. "I cannot eat jams with pectin. I'm vegetarian," she mentioned. I was shocked. Having a smartphone, I immediately looked up the pectin in question. It's 100% plant-based. I showed her the ingredients, and she was surprised. She thought pectin and gelatin were similar and not vegetarian- or vegan-friendly. If my lovely, smart vegetarian friend was confused by pectin, I suspected others are, too.
Pectin is a thread-like vegetable-based carbohydrate that, when cooked, creates a cross-bond to form a gel. We endorse no products in the UC Master Food Preserver program, so the pectin brand I'm about to reference is for information only.
The pectin I looked up was Pomona's Universal Pectin®. According to their website, it is 100% citrus pectin. The pectin is extracted from the dried peel of lemon, lime and orange after the fruit has been juiced and the oil has been pressed out of the peel. The product is vegan, gluten-free and GMO-free. This particular brand of pectin is set using calcium water; instructions are included in the package. With Sure-Jell Powdered Pectin® and Ball Powdered Pectin®, the ingredients are dextrose, citric acid (assists gel) and fruit pectin.
Commercially packaged pectin comes in liquid or powdered form. Each type has particular uses and cannot be substituted for each other. Recipes typically call out what type of pectin to use and how to use it. Here is an example of a jam using powdered pectin from the UC ANR (University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources) Recipe Library:
Strawberry Jam, using powdered pectin: https://ucanr.edu/sites/camasterfoodpreservers/files/334998.pdf
If Solano/Yolo is your local county, contact us online by following this link: https://surveys.ucanr.edu/survey.cfm?surveynumber=30140.
For more information about the UC Master Food Preserver Program, including the Food Preservation Video Library, visit mfp.ucanr.edu.
Strawberries, which generated $2.2 billion for California growers mainly on the coast in 2019, are sensitive to soilborne diseases. Strawberry plant roots infected by fungi are unable to take in nutrients and water, causing the leaves and stems to wilt. The diseases reduce fruit yields and eventually kill infected plants.
To protect the delicate plants from pathogens, strawberry growers fumigate the soil with pesticides such as chloropicrin and 1,3-dichloropropene before planting transplants. Due to the potential negative effects on the environment and human health, however, use of fumigants are highly regulated and developing non-fumigant alternatives has been a priority of the strawberry industry.
For a biological alternative to manage soilborne diseases in strawberries, Joji Muramoto, UC Cooperative Extension organic production specialist based at UC Santa Cruz, has received a $411,395 grant from USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture to study the ability of other crops to suppress strawberry pathogens in the soil.
Verticillium wilt, caused by Verticillium dahliae, is a common soilborne disease that can be controlled with anaerobic soil disinfestation (ASD), a fermentation-based biological treatment using carbon sources such as rice bran under plastic mulch in moist soils for 3 to 5 weeks in autumn. About 2,000 acres of berry fields, mostly organic, were treated with ASD in California and Baja California, Mexico, in 2019.
In 2008-09, the diseases fusarium wilt, caused by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. fragariae, and charcoal rot, caused by Macrophomina phaseolina, emerged in Southern California and now threaten strawberry plants throughout the state.
ASD isn't as effective against F. oxysporum and M. phaseolina unless it is applied in summer on the coast. As saprophytes, they feed not only on living plants, but also can colonize crop residues and rice bran especially at lower coastal temperatures in autumn. Treating fields on California's coast with ASD during summer is difficult because it competes with the vegetable production period.
Based on promising studies in Asia and other areas, Muramoto plans to test alliums – such as onion, bunch onion and leek – and a certain variety of wheat (Summit 515) to see if they will suppress F. oxysporum and M. phaseolina. His team will conduct a series of greenhouse and field trials and test these crops with and without ASD to compare the effects on soilborne pathogens.
“Studies have shown the potential of using allium crops to control Fusarium wilt, and Summit 515 wheat for charcoal rot,” Muramoto said. “Our goal is to examine the effectiveness of suppressive crops, optimize them for California strawberry production systems, and evaluate their economic feasibility for commercial use.”
“No single tactic is likely to replace fumigants,” he said. “Integration of multiple biological approaches such as crop rotation, ASD, and use of resistant strawberry varieties is a key to develop a successful non-fumigant-based soilborne disease management strategy for strawberries. This project is a part of such broader efforts.”
At the end of the three-year study, he plans to share the results at workshops, field days and webinars.
Rachael Goodhue, UC Davis professor of agricultural economics; Carol Shennan, UC Santa Cruz professor of environmental studies; and Peter Henry, USDA Agricultural Research Service plant pathologist, are co-principal investigators on the study with Muramoto.
Also collaborating on the project are Christopher Greer, UC Cooperative Extension integrated pest management area advisor in San Luis Obispo County; Oleg Daugovish, UCCE vegetable and strawberry advisor in Ventura County; Mark Bolda, UCCE director strawberry and cane berry advisor in Santa Cruz County; Jan Perez, food systems specialist, and Darryl Wong, farm research manager, at UC Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems; Miguel Ramos of Ramos Farm; Agriculture and Land-Based Association (ALBA); Driscoll's; Naturipe; and The Oppenheimer Group.