- Fruits: berries (strawberries)
- Crop Production: food product quality/safety
- Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research
- Pest Management: biorational pesticides
The project was a collaborative effort led by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension (TAMU) with collaborators including the University of Arkansas (UA), Prairie View A&M University (PVAMU), the Strawberry Poteet Festival Association and the Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association (TOFGA). This report covers the third and final year of the 3-year project and summarizes our overall efforts. The objective of our project was to evaluate commercially available biocontrol products for efficacy, yield and cost in strawberries, as well as provide outreach training for growers in Texas and Arkansas. Our target audience was limited-resource, small-acreage farmers in the mid-south who struggle with organic strawberry production. Over the past three years we have conducted and attended many conferences, workshops and field days, and presented information derived from this SARE project to over 200,000 mid-south growers, gardeners and other stakeholders through our outreach and media efforts.
The project received a no-cost 6-month extension due to Season 3 trials not being completed until June or July 2019. Up to nine growers (2 in Arkansas and 7 in Texas) as well as two Texas county extension agents (Tarrant and Atascosa counties) and other TAMU faculty participated in the project by assisting with on-farm trials, at research centers, and by participating in field days and workshops. Across Texas, farmer trials included locations in South Texas (Hempstead), North Texas (Arlington), South Central Texas (Poteet) and the Texas High Plains (Lubbock). Grower participation changed over the course of the project due to several dropping strawberries from their farm production in the second/third years; however, new growers were recruited and participated.
Approximately twenty-three on-farm and research center strawberry trials evaluating biopesticides were planned and conducted over the three-year project. Several trials were canceled due to untimely flooding, weather-related conditions (heavy rains and/or drought), animal damage or a lack of pests which prevented collaborators from obtaining effective data. Even so, it is anticipated that at least two peer-review publications will result from data collected during this project and submitted to scientific journals within the next six to 12 months.
Outreach for the project was extensive and very successful. It included conferences, workshops, field days, local radio/TV, scientific presentations and site visits by growers and supporting industry (biopesticide manufacturers/distributors). The project guide entitled ‘Applying Biocontrol Products in Mid-South Strawberries’, however, is still in preparation and was delayed due to late 2019 harvest and data analysis, as well as the undergraduate student assigned to prepare the first draft left the program recently. However, it should be completed within 3 – 4 months of this report.
Finally, further funding was acquired as a result of this project from a Texas Dept. of Agriculture SCRI Block Grant, and Wallace was invited twice with US-AID Farmer-to-Farmer projects to visit Timor-Leste, provide leadership in developing their country’s strawberry production guide and collaborate to improve organic grower’s production through farm visits and training.
The overall objective of the project was to enhance the economic and environmental sustainability of limited-resource farmers growing organic strawberries through sustainable practices in high/low tunnels or in open field production. There are five sub-objectives which include working collaboratively with three or more limited-resource organic strawberry growers in Texas and Arkansas, and conduct research trials at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Prairie View A&M University and the University of Arkansas.
Our objectives are to:
(1) Select biocontrol products and evaluate their efficacy on strawberries grown in high tunnels or under low tunnel protective covers for disease and insect control in the mid-South;
(2) Evaluate the costs of application using the selected biocontrol products and determine their cost-effectiveness in organic strawberries. Products must be economical to be sustainable;
(3) Provide training opportunities for our growers, Extension agents, and crop consultants with on-farm demonstration trials, field days and the opportunity to share results and thoughts on the products through annual workshops and conferences;
(4) When trials are completed annually, we will analyze and summarize all the collected data to report at our planned events, or at regional and national scientific horticulture meetings through submitted abstracts or peer-review publications; and
(5) Upon completion of the 3-year project we will provide our limited resource farmers and other region-wide stakeholders with up-to-date scientifically-researched recommendations on current biocontrol products and finalize the project by preparing and publishing a Biocontrol Guide for Strawberries which will be made available online through our university bookstores (still underway).