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IPM - Alternatives to Disease Control

On alert for insect helpers and pests!

At Larse Farms, as part of our mission to produce high quality fresh strawberries our cultural practice includes Integrated Pest Management, a system to reduce the use of pesticides. We adhere to a constantly evolving IPM practice, a reduced impact cultural practice for effective prevention and control of pests. IPM is constant monitoring combined with a balanced decision making, which considers existing beneficial organisms along with acceptable and unacceptable levels of damage by pathogenic organisms which reside on the soil, plants and fruit during strawberry production.

From the period of initial pre-bud stage through the flowering and fruit harvest cycle pathogenic and benificial biological organisms are monitored and kept in check using chemical, biological and mechanical methods. Some times the crop economics require difficult decision making on the part of farm management including aggresive treatment of infestations.

The IPM includes the use of predator mites to keep populations of devastating spider mites in check. Fungus infections such as gray mold, botrytis and bad tasting powdery mildew are an ongoing problem for strawberry production. At Larse Farms, all planting beds are fully covered with mulch film which keeps fruit from coming in contact with soil moisture. This disease prevention measure reduces reliance on fungicides contributes to a cleaner soil free strawberry. Plant spacing with less plants per row allows better air circulation around fruit laden plants reducing fungal disease pressure. When disease pressures are increased after wet weather, spray applications of fungicides become necessary.

Other major pests are Lygus Plant Bugs and thrips, both of which cause severe deformity in flowers and fruit. We monitor the life cycle of these and other insects to determine the balance of predators and pathogen present. A bio-diverse balance is important, for example in the case of flower thrips, tiny insects which when found in low numbers assist flower pollinization. The fullness of shape desired in a strawberry results from good genetic and environmental effects that are conducive to effective pollinization of the flower that then becomes the strawberry fruit. Bisexual flowers are normally self pollinated with wind movement. Bees also help. Defense against insects include vacuum machines consisting of high volume hydraulic powered fans mounted to a plenum to suction Lygus off the flowers and immature fruit without removing beneficial insects from the underside of leaves.

Larse Farms Inc. is the sole producer of the Sweet Darling Strawberry. The operation under one management on five production sites adjacent to the cold California waters of the Pacific Ocean. This cool location is ideal for strawberries. It is this location that is habitat for the indigenous species Frageria Chiloensis, the "Beach Strawberry" which is a significant contributor to the gene pool of our current varieties.