Sonoma County Bounty - Farm Business Incubator
University of California
Sonoma County Bounty - Farm Business Incubator


Impact of entomopathogenic fungi and beneficial microbes on strawberry growth, health, and yield

Six-month old strawberry field.

Under the soil is a complex and dynamic world of moisture, pH, salinity, nutrients, microorganisms, and plant roots along with pests, pathogens, weeds and more.  A good balance of essential nutrients, moisture, and beneficial microorganisms provides optimal plant growth and yield.  These factors also influence natural plant defenses and help withstand stress caused by biotic and abiotic factors. 

Several beneficial microbe-based products are commercially available to promote plant growth and improve health, yield potential and quality.  Some of them improve nutrient and water absorption while others provide protection against plant pathogens or improve plant defense mechanism.  In addition to the macronutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, several micronutrients are critical for optimal growth and yield potential.  Some of the micronutrient products are also useful in promoting beneficial microbes.  Understanding the plant-microbe-nutrient interactions and how different products help crop production are helpful for making appropriate decisions.

Mycorrhizae (fungi of roots) establish a symbiotic relationship with plants and serve as an extended network of the root system. They facilitate improved uptake of moisture and nutrients resulting in better plant growth and yield (Amerian and Stewart, 2001; Wu and Zou, 2009; Bolandnazar et al., 2007; Nedorost et al., 2014).  Mycorrhizae can also help absorb certain nutrients more efficiently than plants can and make them more readily available for the plant.  With increased moisture and nutrient absorption, plants can become more drought-tolerant.  Mycorrhizae also help plants to withstand saline conditions and protect from plant pathogens.  A healthy root system can fight soil diseases and weed invasion.  Additionally, mycorrhizae increase organic matter content and improve soil structure.

Considering an increasing need for fumigation alternatives to address soilborne pathogens in strawberry, mycorrhizae and other beneficial microbes could be potential tools in maintaining plant health.  Additionally, recent studies suggest that entomopathogenic fungi such as Beauveria bassiana, Metarhizium brunneum, and Isaria fumosorosea form mycorrhiza-like and endophytic relationships with various species of plants and could help with plant growth and health (Behie and Bidochka, 2014; Dara et al., 2016).  These fungi are currently used for pest management, but their interaction with plants is a new area of research.  Understanding this interaction will potentially expand the use of the biopesticides based on these fungi for improving plant growth and health.  A study was conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms, Santa Maria in fall-planted strawberry crop during the 2014-2015 production season to evaluate the impact of beneficial microbes on strawberry growth, health, mite infestations, powdery mildew, botrytis fruit rot, and yield.


List of treatments, their application rates and frequencies:

  1. Untreated control: Received no supplemental treatments other than standard grower practices.
  2. HealthySoil: NPK (0.1-0.1-0.1).
  3. BotaniGard ES: Entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana strain GHA.  Rate - 1 qrt in 50 gal for a 30 min transplant dip and 1 qrt/ac every 15 days until January and once a month thereafter until April, 2015.
  4. Met52: Entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium brunneum strain F52.  Rate – 16 fl oz in 50 gal for a 30 min transplant dip and 16 fl oz/ac every 15 days until January and once a month thereafter until April, 2015.
  5. NoFly: Entomopathogenic fungus Isaria fumosorosea strain FE9901.  Rate – 11.55 oz in 50 gal for a 30 min transplant dip and 11.55 oz/ac every 15 days until January and once a month thereafter until April, 2015.
  6. Actinovate AG: Beneficial soilborne bacterium Streptomyces lydicus WYEC 108.  Rate – 6 oz in 50 gal for a 30 mintransplant dip and 6 oz/ac every month.
  7. TerraClean 5.0: Hydrogen dioxide and peroxyacetic acid.  Rate – 1:256 dilution for a 1 min root dip followed by 2 gal/ac 10 days after planting and then 2 and 1 gal/ac alternated every 15 days until April, 2015.
  8. TerraGrow: Humic acids, amino acids, sea kelp, glucose based carriers, bacteria – Bacillus licheniformis, B. subtilis, B. pumilus, B. amyloliquefaciens, and B. magaterium, and mycorrhizae – Trichoderma harzianum and T. reesei.  Rate – 1.13 g in 10 gal for a 1 min root dip followed by 1.5 lb/ac 10 days after planting and once every month until April, 2015.
  9. TerraCelan and TerraGrow: Same as individual treatments at the time of planting, but TerraClean at 2 gal/ac and TerraGrow at 1.5 lb/ac 10 days after planting followed by monthly treatments until April, 2015.
  10. O-MEGA: NPK (0.2-1.0-0.5), bacteria – Azotobacter chroococcum, Azospirillum lipoferum, Lactobacillus acidophilus, Pseudomonas fluorescens, Cellulomonas cellulans and the fungus Aspergillus niger.  Rate – 20 ml in 1 gal sprinkled on transplants 30 min before planting followed by 1 qrt/ac every week rest of the season.

Strawberry transplants (variety BG-6.3024) were treated at the time of planting on 6 November, 2014 and treatments are also administered periodically through the drip irrigation system following the abovementioned schedule.  Each treatment had two 330' long beds each with four rows of plants.  Treatments were randomly arranged in two blocks and two sampling plots (20' long) were established within each bed in a block.  The impact of the treatments on plant growth (canopy size), health, spider mite populations, botrytis and powdery mildew severity, and yield were monitored periodically.  Plant growth was determined by measuring the canopy size.  Plant health was rated on a scale of 0 to 5 where 0=dead, 1=weak, 2=moderate low, 3=moderate high, 4=good, and 5=very good.  Powdery mildew severity was determined by observing leaf samples under microscope and rating the severity on a scale of 0 to 4 where 0=no infection, 1=1-25%, 2=26-50%, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100% of leaf area with powdery mildew.  Twenty plants or leaf samples per plot were used for these observations.  To monitor botrytis fruit rot, a box of fruits from each plot were held at room temperature and disease was rated 3 and 5 days after harvest on a scale of 0 to 4 where 0=no infection, 1=1-25%, 2=26-50%, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100% of fruit with botrytis.  Yield data were also collected from the plots throughout the production season using grower's harvesting schedule.  Mite counts were also taken periodically.

Data were analyzed using analysis of variance and significant means were separated using Tukey's HSD means separation test.

Treating the transplants with different treatment materials and planting in respective beds

Newsly transplanted experimental plots.

Chris Martinez (center, front row) and rest of the field crew at Manzanita Berry Farms


Canopy size: Significant differences (P = 0.002) among treatments were seen only on the first observation date on 26 January, 2015 where TerraClean-treated plants were smaller than some of the treatments.  There were no significant differences (P > 0.05) in treatments on the following observations in February and March, however TerraClean-treated plants recovered and plants were larger in some of the treatments.

Size of the plant canopy on three observation dates.

Plant health: Treatments did not have a significant (P > 0.05) impact on plant health.  Health ratings varied from 4.2 for TerraClean to 4.6 for untreated, BotaniGard, Actinovate, and O-Mega treatments in January.  In February, TerraGrow-treated plants had 4.5 rating and BotaniGard and O-Mega treatments had 4.8.  March ratings varied between 4.8 and 4.9 in all the treatments.  As there were no soilborne diseases during the study period, the impact of the treatments could not be determined, which was the main objective of the study.

 Plant health ratings on three observation dates.

Powdery mildew: Disease severity did not differ among treatments (P > 0.05) on 16 April and 16 June, but significant (P = 0.008) differences were observed on 26 June where BotaniGard-treated plants had the lowest.  When data were compared for the three observation dates, severity rating varied from 1.8 for BotaniGard to 2.24 for TerraClean.

Powdery mildew severity on individual observation dates (top) and combined for three observations (bottom)

Botrytis fruit rot: There were no significant (P > 0.05) differences among treatments on any of the four observation dates or when data were combined for all observations.  In general, fruit rot was less severe 3 days after harvest than 5 days after during the first three observation dates.  When data were combined for the observation dates, HealthySoil treatment had a rating of 1 followed by Met52, NoFly, Actinovate, and TerraClean+TerraGrow with a 1.3 rating for 3 days after harvest.

Severity of botrytis fruit rot 3 and 5 days after harvest on individual observation dates (above) and when data were combined (below).

Spider mites: Mite populations were very low in all the plots during observation period and data were not included.

Fruit yield: While the seasonal yield of total, marketable, or unmarketable berries was not significantly (P > 0.05) different for any of the treatments marketable yields had a wider range than unmarketable yields among treatments.  The lowest marketable fruit yield was seen in TerraClean (35.6 kg or 79.4 lb) and HealthySoil (35.8 kg or 79.8 lb) while the highest yield was seen in Actinovate (40.1 kg or 89.4 lb) followed by untreated control (39.4 kg or 87.9 lb), O-Mega (39.3 kg or 87.6 lb), Met52 (39.2 kg or 87.4 lb), and NoFly (38.7 kg or 86.3 lb) treatments.

Seasonal yields of total, marketable, and unmarketable strawberries per plot. 

This is the first field study evaluating the impact of three popular entomopathogenic fungi along with multiple beneficial microbes on strawberry plant growth, foliar and fruit diseases, and yield.  While differences among treatments were not pronounced, it appeared that some had a positive impact on some of the parameters measured.  It is interesting to note that yields were higher (although not statistically significant) than the grower standard, HealthySoil.  Compared to the grower standard, marketable yield was higher in many other treatments.  Since an untreated situation is not common in a commercial field, using beneficial microbes can be useful.  Although previous field studies evaluated the impact of with the entomopathogenic fungus B. bassiana in strawberries (Dara, 2013; Dara, 2016), a positive impact on plant growth or yield by I. fumosorosea and M. brunneum in commercial strawberries has never been reported earlier. 

Additional studies with different application rates would be useful to understand how beneficial microbes could be exploited more.

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Dave Peck, Manzanita Berry Farms for the collaboration and industry partners for the financial support.  Thanks to Chris Martinez and rest of the field crew at Manzanita Berry Farms and Fritz Light and Tamas Zold for the technical assistance. 


Amerian, M.R., and W.S. Stewart. 2001. Effect of two species of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi on growth, assimilation and leaf water relations in maize (Zea mays). Aspects of Appl. Biol. 63: 1-6.

Behie, S.W., and M.J. Bidochka. 2014. Nutrient transfer in plant-fungal symbioses. Trends in Plant Sci. 19: 734-740.

Bolandnazar, S., N. Aliasgarzad, M.R. Neishabury, and N. Chaparzadeh. 2007. Mycorrhizal colonization improves onion (Allium cepa L.) yield and water use efficiency under water deficit condition. Sci. Horticulturae 114: 11-15.

Dara, S. K.  2013.  Entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana promotes strawberry plant growth and health.  UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 30 September, 2013. (

Dara, S. K. 2016. First field study evaluating the impact of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana on strawberry plant growth and yield.  UCANR eJournal Strawberrries and Vegetables, 7 November, 2016. (

Dara, S. K., S.S.R. Dara, and S. S. Dara.  2016.  First report of entomopathogenic fungi, Beauveria bassiana, Isaria fumosorosea, and Metarhizium brunneum promoting the growth and health of cabbage plants growing under water stress.  UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 16 September, 2016.(

Nedorost, L., J. Vojtiskova, and R. Pokluda. 2014. Influence of watering regime and mycorrhizal inoculation on growth and nutrient uptake of pepper (Capsicum annuum L.). VII International symposium on irrigation of horticultural crops, Braun P., M. Stoll, and J. Zinkernagel (eds). Acta Horticulturae 1038:559-564.

Wu, Q.S., and Y. Zou. 2009. Mycorrhizal influence on nutrient uptake of citrus exposed to drought stress. Philippine Agri. Scientist 92: 33-38.


Posted on Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 12:42 PM

USDA Announces Streamlined Guaranteed Loans and Additional Lender Category for Small-Scale Operators

USDA recently announced the availability of a streamlined version of USDA guaranteed loans, which are tailored for smaller scale farms and urban producers. The program, called EZ Guarantee Loans, uses a simplified application process to help beginning, small, underserved and family farmers and ranchers apply for loans of up to $100,000 from USDA-approved lenders to purchase farmland or finance agricultural operations.

These EZ Guarantee Loans will help beginning and underserved farmers obtain the capital they need to get their operations off the ground, and they can also be helpful to those who have been farming for some time but need extra help to expand or modernize their operations. USDA's Farm Service Agency has offices in nearly every county in the country.

USDA also unveiled a new category of lenders that will join traditional lenders, such as banks and credit unions, in offering USDA EZ Guarantee Loans. Microlenders, which include Community Development Financial Institutions and Rural Rehabilitation Corporations, will be able to offer their customers up to $50,000 of EZ Guaranteed Loans, helping to reach urban areas and underserved producers. Banks, credit unions and other traditional USDA-approved lenders, can offer customers up to $100,000 to help with agricultural operation costs.

EZ Guarantee Loans offer low interest rates and terms up to seven years for financing operating expenses and 40 years for financing the purchase of farm real estate. USDA-approved lenders can issue these loans with the Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranteeing the loan up to 95 percent.

California Farmlink is one of the USDA-approved lenders for some of these loans:

FSA also offers loans of up to $5,000 to young farmers and ranchers though the Youth Loan Program. Loans are made to eligible youth to finance agricultural projects, with almost 9,000 young people now participating.

More information about the available types of FSA farm loans can be found at or by contacting your local FSA office. To find your nearest office location, visit

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at 3:30 PM
  • Author: shermain hardesty
Tags: loans (2), microlenders (1), USDA (2)

First field study evaluating the impact of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana on strawberry plant growth and yield


Beauveria bassiana is a soilborne entomopathogenic fungus which offers plant protection as a pathogen of arthropod pests (Feng et al., 1994; Dara, 2015).  It also appears to have a direct association with plants as an endophyte, colonizing various plant tissues, or through a mycorrizha-like relationship promoting plant health and growth (Bing and Lewis, 1991; Posada and Vega, 2005; Dara, 2013; Dara and Dara, 2015; Lopez and Sword, 2015; Dara et al., 2016;).  In a raised bed study conducted in 2013, treating strawberry transplants with B. bassiana resulted in a significant improvement in the plant growth compared to untreated control or treatment with a beneficial microbe-based product (Dara, 2013).  To evaluate such an impact in a commercial strawberry field, a study was conducted at Manzanita Berry Farms in Santa Maria in conventional fall-planted strawberries. 

Chris Martinez, Manzanita Berry Farms applying B. bassiana to newly planted strawberry crop.


Experimental design included five plots each of the grower standard and periodical soil application of B. bassiana (BotaniGard ES) alternated on consecutive beds.  Each plot had 50 strawberry plants.  Strawberry variety PS3108 was planted on 27 November, 2013 and B. bassiana treatment was initiated on 2 December, 2013.  To prepare the treatment liquid, 0.64 fl oz (18.9 ml) of BotaniGard ES was mixed in 1 gal (3.78 L).  About 0.4 fl oz (11.8 ml) of the liquid was applied near the base of each plant (5 cm deep and 2.5 cm away from the plant) in B. bassiana treatment using a handpump sprayer.  Application was continued every week until 13 January, 2014 (a total of seven times) followed by six biweekly applications until 7 April, 2014.

To determine the impact of B. bassiana on plant growth, size of the strawberry canopy was measured across and along the length of the bed from every third plant (20 total) within each plot on 21 January, 11 February, and 7 March, 2014.  Yield data were collected every 2-3 days from 8 March to 30 June, 2014 following the normal harvest schedule.  Data were analyzed using analysis of variance and Tukey's HSD test was used to separate significant means.

About 5 weeks (above) and 14 weeks (below) after transplanting.

Chris Martinez taking canopy measurements.


Canopy size was slightly higher for B. bassiana-treated plants on the first two sampling dates and for the grower standard plants on the last observation date although differences were not statistically significant (P > 0.05).  Seasonal total for the marketable berries was slightly higher in the grower standard (101.1 lb or 45.9 kg) than in B. bassiana treatment (44.2 lb or 97.4 kg), but the difference was not statistically significant (P > 0.05).  The average weight of marketable berries was 28.8 g from the B. bassiana-treated plots and 28.7 g from the grower standard.

Strawberry canopy (above) and seasonal yield (below) data in B. bassiana-treated and grower standard plots.

In the 2013 raised bed study, roots of the misted tip strawberry transplants were treated 48 hours before planting by applying 1 ml of the Mycotrol-O formulation (2.11X1011 conidia) in 1 ml of water per plant.  In the current study, transplants could not be treated before planting and the commercial field application rate used (1.25X109 conidia) was much less than the rate used in the raised bed study.  Although multiple applications were made for several weeks during the current study, B. bassiana did not have any impact on plant growth or fruit yields.  This was the first commercial field study evaluating the impact of B. bassiana on strawberry plant growth and yield.  Plant, soil, and microbe interaction is very complex and is influenced by multiple factors.  Additional studies are necessary to understand the potential of B. bassiana and other entomopathogenic fungi in plant production in addition to its role in plant protection.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Dave Peck, Manzanita Berry Farms for collaboration on the study and Chris Martinez for his technical assistance.


Bing, L. A., and L. C. Lewis.  1991. Suppression of Ostrinia nubilalis (Hübner) (Lepidoptera: Pyralidae) by endophytic Beauveria bassiana (Balsamo) Vuillemin. Environ. Entomol. 20: 1207-1211.

Dara, S. K.  2013.  Entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana promotes strawberry plant growth and health.  UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 30 September, 2013.

Dara, S. K.  2016.  IPM solutions of insect pests in California strawberries: efficacy of botanical, chemical, mechanical, and microbial options.  CAPCA Adviser 19 (2): 40-46.

Dara, S. K. and S. R. Dara.  2015.  Entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana endophytically colonizes strawberry plants. UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 17 February, 2015.

Dara, S. K., S.S.R. Dara, and S. S. Dara.  2016.  First report of entomopathogenic fungi, Beauveria bassiana, Isaria fumosorosea, and Metarhizium brunneum promoting the growth and health of cabbage plants growing under water stress.  UCANR eJournal Strawberries and Vegetables, 19 September, 2016.

Feng, M. G., T. J. Poprawski, and G. G. Khachatourians.  1994. Production, formulation and application of the entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassiana for insect control: current status.  Biocon. Sci. Tech. 4: 3-34.

Lopez, D. C. and G. A. Sword, G. A. 2015. The endophytic fungal entomopathogens Beauveria bassiana and Purpureocillium lilacinum enhance the growth of cultivated cotton (Gossypium hirsutum) and negatively affect survival of the cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa zea). Biol. Control 89: 53-60.

Posada, F. and F. E. Vega.  2005. Establishment of the fungal entomopathogen Beauveria bassiana (Ascomycota: Hypocreales) as an endophyte in cocoa seedlings (Theobroma cacao). Mycologia 97: 1195-1200. 



Posted on Monday, November 7, 2016 at 4:24 PM

Small-scale farming and urban animal agriculture survey

The following comes from Dr. Alda Pires at UC Davis. Please consider participating in the survey.

Survey to identify the needs of small-scale farms and Urban animal agriculture Producers in the Western States of the US: livestock and poultry owners

The growing numbers of small-scale farms (SSFs) (1) and peri-urban and urban animal agriculture farms (UA) has increased the need for Extension specialists and veterinarians focused on small-scale and backyard livestock production(2).  We are seeking your help in this needs assessment regarding animal health concerns on small-scale farms and for peri-urban and urban animal agriculture in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington State. This study is led by Dr. Alda Pires (University of California), Dr. Dale Moore (Washington State University) and Dr. Ragan Adams (Colorado State University).

The increasing popularity of local food production and sustainability has put small-scale farming and urban animal agriculture at the forefront. Your input is very important in better understanding this food sector and would be greatly appreciated.

This survey aims to identify the needs of livestock and poultry owners related to animal health, animal husbandry and food safety; and the role that veterinarians play on small farms. This study will serve as a benchmark for designing effective educational programs to train farmers, backyard producers and veterinarians working within this sector.

Your participation is essential for this needs assessment. The survey will take about 15-20 minutes of your time. The survey can be accessed here:

All your answers will remain completely confidential and no personal information about you will be recorded. You have the option to not participate and you can quit the survey at any time. This project is approved by the UC Davis, WA and CO University Institutional Review Boards.

We thank you for your time and your commitment to small-scale farming and urban animal agriculture.

Should you have any questions at any time, please feel free to contact me directly (Alda Pires at 530 754 9855,


Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2016 at 3:52 PM

Android version of the IPMinfo app with new features just released

After last year's release of the iOS version of the first IPMinfo app, several improvements have been made for the Android version, which was released on 30 September, 2016.  One main difference is that the current app is a dynamic one, which requires Internet connection to access the content.  This dynamic nature allows real-time updates to the contents of the app that will be reflected immediately. 

Here are some key features of the app:

-An option to add content in multiple languages.  Currently has strawberry pest information in English and Spanish and disease information in English.  User can select the language of their choice and change as needed.

-Information about multiple crops can be accessed.  Currently has strawberry and lettuce will be the next crop to be added.  User will have the option to select the crop or crops they are interested so that device memory is used only for appropriate choices.

-In addition to pests and diseases, weed and disorder information will also be included.

-Search feature allows selection of a particular topic of interest.

-Access to extension meeting presentations, handouts, YouTube videos, and electronic journals “PestNews” and “Strawberries and Vegetables”.

-An option to provide feedback.

-The notification feature allows sending alerts about updates, new extension articles, meetings, and anything else to the users.  Users must turn the notification feature on for this feature to work.  These notifications are designed to show up on smart watches as well.

The main goal of IPMinfo is to provide a single point access to pest management information about multiple crops and other extension material so that users do not have to search multiple resources to obtain that information.  When details of different crops in multiple languages are added, IPMinfo will serve as powerful resource for pests, diseases, weeds, and disorders and their identification and management.

User can select the crop/crops of their interest.  A specific topic can also be searched.


List of diseases, and symptoms and management options for each disease.

 Disease symptoms and management options.

List of arthropod pests and their biology (above), damage, and management options (below).

Feedback about the app can be submitted through this feature.

Different information sources can be access from the menu options (above).  Articles from eJournals (below).  

Posted on Friday, September 30, 2016 at 10:24 AM

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