- Fruits: berries (strawberries)
- Pest Management: prevention
Problem, Novel Approach and Justification: Strawberry farmers in the Northeast use synthetic pesticides to manage persistent diseases and arthropod pests (e.g. Botrytis fruit rot, powdery mildew, anthracnose, whitefly, and two-spotted spider mite). This can be costly due to expenses of the treatment. With the threat of pesticide resistance and increasing annual costs for growers (currently ~$500/acre in the Northeast), alternative strategies are needed for managing diseases and pests. A novel non-chemical strategy we have developed for this purpose is called PhylloLux technology. This innovative method uses a relatively low UV-C light dose combined with a prescribed dark period and application of beneficial microbes (antagonists) to control fungal pathogens (e.g. Botrytis cinerea, Colletotrichum acutatum and C. gloeosporioides and Podosphaera aphanis). Night-time UV-C light applications is a strategy that maximizes killing power on microorganisms at levels that are not damaging to strawberry plants. Our research also showed that this technology decreases populations of whitefly (Trialeurodes vaporariorum) and two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) populations. Autonomous nighttime robotic operation for UV-C light application will have a minimal impact on day-active pollinators and does not require no personnel to work in the dark.
Hypothesis or Question and Research Plan: PhylloLux technology will be developed as an affordable non-chemical alternative to pesticides for management of strawberry diseases and pests via automation. USDA will collaborate with TRIC Robotics to develop an autonomous vehicle for the delivery of UV-C technology to field-grown strawberry plants that is affordable and effective for managing persistent diseases and pests.
Outreach Plan: We will recruit growers and extension personnel to join a stakeholder-driven and insightful advisory panel. The panel will be comprised of strawberry growers in WV, MD, DE, and MA and berry crop extension educators/researchers in ME, MA, CT, PA, and MD to guide this “novel approaches” project. Annual in-person advisory panel meetings will be held along with several e-meetings to enable the panel to provide real-time input into the project. Based on panel feedback, researchers will modify work as necessary. A project website/blog will be created to post findings as part of outreach education and to obtain feedback from stakeholders. Research activities and significant findings will be shared with stakeholders at regional and national berry conferences and in popular publications.
Project Objective: The objective of our proposal is to improve control of persistent disease and arthropod pests of strawberry and decrease pesticide use by deploying an autonomous vehicle that applies UV-C light to strawberry fields at night. We will compare disease and pest control achieved with synthetic pesticides, UV-C and the combination on short-day and day-neutral strawberry varieties. We will work specifically with TRIC Robotics to make this technology affordable and commercially feasible for small-scale strawberry growers in the Northeast.
Performance targets from proposal:
The objective is to improve control of persistent disease and arthropod pests of strawberry while decreasing pesticide use by deploying an autonomous vehicle that applies UV-C light to strawberry fields and is affordable for small-scale growers. We will compare disease and pest control achieved with synthetic pesticides, UV-C and the combination on two strawberry varieties. We will work specifically with TRIC Robotics technologies to make this system affordable and commercially feasible.