A recent article referred to one of the reasons that growers need access to new strawberry varieties is that there is an inherent loss in vigor through the propagation process. That growers need access to new varieties to remain competitive is absolutely true, but that they need access to new varieties because the existing ones decline in vigor is not.
Plants do not invariably “lose their pep after years of cloning”. Indeed, reputable nurseries avoid a loss of vigor in a variety by periodically going back to meristem culture in order to keep their plant stock strong and productive. It does happen (especially in some formerly popular caneberry varieties - compare Ollalieberry in the field today to what was around in the early nineties) that older varieties of less demand don't have the meristem work done as frequently and subsequently become less vital over time.
What is meristem culture? Meristem culture is the excision of a cluster of actively dividing cells from the meristem (tip) of a newly formed strawberry runner, followed by surface sterilization, placement on a special medium, subsequent rooting, gradual acclimation of the new plant and transfer to a secure greenhouse. While some cases of genetic instability from repeatedly doing meristem culture have been noted in the literature, this cannot be described as a drift towards a loss in vigor of a variety. At any rate, programs for production of true to type (identical) plant stock using meristem culture have been used for a long time at any of the strawberry nurseries in business today.
A good example of how well and long a popular variety can be maintained through meristem culture would be the strawberry variety ‘Chandler'. Chandler continues to be widely planted by direct marketers because consumers just love its flavor and quality. Consider though that this variety was patented in 1984 by the University of California, and has had no apparent loss in vigor in all this time because the nurseries continue to go back to meristem culture to maintain it.
Growers have rumored that the variety ‘Albion' has been losing its vigor, but work at the Pomology Field Station in Watsonville over several years shows that this was not at all true. The Albion grown at this field station has experienced NO loss in yield since it was first released. Rather the rumored "loss in vigor" of the very widely planted Albion is almost certainly because of the industry wide steady drift away from methyl bromide fumigation to less effective alternatives like 1,3-D and chloropicrin.
- Author: Steven Koike
- Author: Mark Bolda
- Author: Tom Gordon
2014 strawberry alert: Statewide, the California strawberry industry is grappling with two soilborne diseases that are spreading throughout the state: charcoal rot and Fusarium wilt. Both problems have been found in the Monterey-Santa Cruz region, and until recently most outbreaks were caused by the charcoal rot pathogen, Macrophomina phaseolina. However, in 2014 a number of new plant collapse cases were confirmed to be Fusarium wilt; overall, more Fusarium has been detected in 2014 than Macrophomina, a switch from previous seasons.
Symptoms: Symptoms of Fusarium wilt in strawberry consist of wilting of older foliage, plant stunting, and eventual collapse of the plant (Figures 1, 2, and 3). When plant crowns are cut open, internal vascular and cortical tissues are dark to orange brown (Figure 4). Disease is often most severe if the infected plant is subject to stresses such as weather extremes, water stress (excess or shortage of water), poor soil conditions, or heavy fruit loads. It is important to note that Fusarium wilt symptoms are virtually identical to those caused by charcoal rot.
Biology: Fusarium wilt is caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. fragariae.This pathogen is host specific to strawberry and apparently can only infect this crop. The fungus survives in soil for long periods by producing resilient, microscopic structures called chlamydospores. The development of Fusarium wilt has been associated with changes in the practices of pre-plant soil fumigation. The fungus is spread within and between fields mostly by the transport of contaminated soil during soil tillage and preparation operations.
Current year management: For planted fields currently in production, there are no reliable control options for this disease. Because Fusarium wilt is more severe and develops more rapidly if strawberry plants are stressed, growers should manage the field so as to reduce stress; such steps include proper irrigation scheduling and the controlling of mites and other pests. Applying extra water will not help symptomatic plants. Even in the absence of stress, plants showing collapse symptoms eventually become non-productive.
Long term strategies: Integrated disease management strategies for subsequent crops involve the following: (1) Crop rotation. Do not plant strawberry in fields having a known history of the problem and avoid back-to-back strawberry plantings in infested locations. (2) Pre-plant fumigation. Such applications remain a useful tool for managing Fusarium and the other soilborne pests, even though most currently available fumigants are not completely effective. If fumigants are bed-applied, the level of control may be further reduced because of incomplete treatment of the soil. Measures that improve distribution of fumigants such as increasing the number of drip tapes may be beneficial. (3) Avoid stressing the plants. Stress will hasten the development and increase the severity of symptoms, so use appropriate growing and irrigation practices to reduce stress. (4) Sanitation. Growers with Fusarium infested fields need to be concerned with limiting the spread of the fungus from infested to clean fields. Being a soilborne pathogen, F. oxysporum can readily be spread by mud and dirt adhering to equipment and tires. Note that the pathogen may be resident in a field for several years before any plants show symptoms. Therefore limiting movement of soil between fields is a good practice even where no disease is evident. (5) Resistant or tolerant cultivars. UC cultivars show significant differences in susceptibility to Fusarium wilt, although none are completely resistant. San Andreas, Ventana, and Portola appear relatively resistant but reaction to the pathogen may differ year-to-year, which may be due to the variable effects of stress. Camarosa and Albion are both highly susceptible to Fusarium wilt.
Diagnosis and disease trends: Because Fusarium wilt symptoms are identical to charcoal rot symptoms and are similar to those caused by Verticillium wilt and Phytophthora root & crown rot, field diagnosis is impossible to accurately achieve. Submit strawberry collapse samples to the UC Cooperative Extension diagnostic lab in Salinas, which is supported jointly by UC and the California Strawberry Commission. Our research and extension team is closely following these disease developments; contact us if you see new outbreaks of these important problems.
Just a quick note and pictures to add to our growing catalogue of physiological damage to strawberries and caneberries.
Depicted below are several instances of sunburn and/or heat damage to strawberry. The top two pictures were of a strawberry plant up next to a wall getting full sun during the entire hot spell we had last week, so it is without a doubt it is heat and sun which caused the damage depicted in the pictures below.
These are good features to recognize for the diagnostician in the field.
- Author: Steven Koike
- Author: Mark Bolda
Leaf blotch disease, caused by Zythia fragariae, is a very minor foliar disease of strawberry in California. Usually the disease occurs in late winter/early spring when there are sufficient rains to activate the fungus and spread the spores. Once the winter season rains have ceased, the disease subsides before the development of much fruit. Because of the drought, leaf blotch was generally not observed or reported during the late winter/early spring of this season.
However, an unusual flare-up of leaf blotch is currently developing in some fields in the central coast. Because of the lack of rainfall and build up of salts in the soil, some growers used sprinklers in the early spring to alleviate salt buildup and reduce subsequent stress of the strawberry transplants. It appears that in some cases, the sprinkler irrigations have enabled Zythia to develop and cause typical leaf blotches. Symptoms consist of tan to gray leaf lesions that commonly (though not exclusively) develop along the margin or edge of the leaflets (Photo 1). Leaf blotches are irregular in shape and may be surrounded by a purple border. These affected areas tend to grow fairly large; they can expand and cover from 1/4 to 1/2 of the leaflet surface. A key diagnostic feature of leaf blotch is the presence of tiny, brown to black, fungal fruiting bodies in the gray blotches (Photos 2 and 3). These fruiting bodies produce tiny spores (Photo 4) that are readily spread by splashing water.
A related development is the formation of brown to tan lesions on the calyx tissue of strawberry fruit (Photo 5). Calyx lesions appear to be associated with plants having the leaf symptoms. In some cases, the Zythia fruiting bodies are present in the calyx lesions and appear as darker brown, circular to oblong structures (Photo 6). However, fruiting bodies are not always present; since there are other physiological or environmental factors that can result in damage to fruit calices, care should be taken when diagnosing this problem.
UC Cooperative Extension does not have efficacy data for fungicide use for leaf blotch; therefore, we do not recommend or suggest the use of fungicides. Researchers in other areas (Europe) have determined that the following materials have good effectiveness against the leaf blotch pathogen: Pristine, Quadris, Rally. Switch also reduced disease but was less effective. This April occurrence of leaf blotch following sprinkler irrigations is a good reminder of how environmental conditions are essential for the development of plant diseases. This leaf blotch situation may continue to be present if any late April rains fall.
There are fungicides mentioned for management of leaf blotch disease in this article. As always, before using any of these products, check with your local Agricultural Commissioner's Office and consult product labels for current status of product registration, restrictions, and use information.
For grower and PCA reference, this sample came into Steve's lab on Monday. No disease found, and checking with the grower it showed up in the warmest part of the field one day after application of 32 fl oz per acre of Diazinon 2E. Interestingly, it showed up on the fruit only, not on the leaves or flowers. Problem is starting to clear, with new incoming fruit looking fine.