- Author: Mark Bolda
The question of organic strawberry transplants is one that has turned through the industry for some time, and the picture has sharpened somewhat since our organic strawberry transplant meeting.
It's clear by now that it is possible to organically produce a transplant of comparable productive capacity to one conventionally produced. We had data at the meeting saying as much presented by Fernando Garcia, formally of FarmFuels and now with ReiterBerry , and I oversaw a similar project three years ago, again supported by Farm Fuels and executed by Anna Brown, with a similar outcome.
I too ran a study a number of years ago in 2003-2004 together with James Rickert and then Farm Advisor Dan Marcum of Butte County comparing three varieties, grown organically and conventionally, and again had little difference between them (figures included below).
So we know now that there is no issue with productive capacity of organic v conventionally produced plants.
But the major issue of phytosanitation still remains. Phytosanitation was acknowledged by the plant growers themselves in their presentations and was the main topic in the later conversations I had with several attendees (thank you) afterwards. Plainly spoken, organic transplants run a higher risk of having disease on them that will reduce yields and contaminate ground. Conventionally produced transplants, by merit of having recourse to more materials to reduce disease, run a lesser chance of having this happen.
Encouragingly, at the meeting we were shown that there is a lot of research seeking a higher assurance of no disease contamination in organic strawberry transplant production, and that is still ongoing.
Again, as we move forward with this project of organic transplants, we need to be clear that the matter at hand right now is not that of plant productivity, but that of reducing risk of loss and contamination of the organically grown transplant. We will hope that the regulatory and agencies overseeing organic production take heed.