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New weed control strategies in strawberry are effective

The Issue

California is a primary producer of strawberries in the U.S. with 34,000 acres of fruit production and an annual value of $1.2 billion. Weeding costs in strawberry production range from $300 to $700 per acre even after fumigation with methyl bromide. The majority of the weeding expenses are for hand-weeding, which poses challenges for growers due to regulations and the increasing costs and decreasing availability of labor. Transition to less effective alternative fumigants and an increase in non-fumigated areas (buffer zones, furrow bottoms and organic fields), require cost-effective and sustainable weed control tools.

What Has ANR Done?

During the last five years, UC Cooperative Extension scientists have conducted a series of studies in grower fields in all California strawberry production areas. Their research concluded that:
  • The use of virtually impermeable films enhances weed control with alternative fumigants. The retention of the fumigants under these films also reduces emissions, an environmental benefit to air quality.
  • The use of oxyfluorfen prior to plastic mulch installation and of flumioxazin in furrows help reduce weeding costs 40 to 60 percent without harming the crop. These methods control weeds missed by fumigation – especially little mallow.
  • Barriers, such as paper, when used in combination with standard plastic films, prevent germination of yellow nutsedge, a troublesome perennial weed that was not previously controlled in non-fumigated buffer zones. The researchers shared this information with growers by conducting a series of meetings, field days and short-courses. The information is available in English and Spanish in a manual and on the Internet.

    The Payoff

    Growers have adopted the new effective and environmentally friendly weed control strategies.

    This research and extension program helped growers save $150 to $300 per acre in hand-weeding labor costs. The number of growers that adopted these weed control strategies increased more than 10 times in a two-year period. Pest control advisers have benefited from new technology in applying alternative fumigants and herbicides, because it provides effective weed control and complies with regulatory requirements. The general public has also benefited from increased environmental safety with new weed control strategies in strawberry production near residential areas.


    Supporting Unit:

    University of California Cooperative Extension-Ventura County and UC Davis, Salinas.
    Oleg Daugovish, UC Cooperative Extension, Ventura County, (805) 645-1454, odaugofish@ucdavis.edu
    Steve Fennimore, UC Davis, Salinas, (831) 755-2896, safennimore@ucdavis.edu