Strawberry fields forever

Date posted: April 14, 2014

Strawberry in field(Photo courtesy of Amanda McWhirt)This spring’s strawberry harvest will provide data on the effectiveness of N.C. State sustainable growing methods.

North Carolina is the nation’s No. 3 strawberry producer, but many of the state’s berries grow on small plots lacking the acreage to carry out sustainable growing practices like crop rotation. That, combined with constant concerns about soil pathogens and reliance on chemicals to rid plants of ubiquitous pests like spider mites, puts immense pressure on these farms’ long-term health.

Can North Carolina withstand this pressure and keep its top-three status behind fruit and veggie behemoths California and Florida, the top two U.S. strawberry producers?

N.C. State crop science Ph.D. student Amanda McWhirt is working with fellow university agroecologists, horticulture scientists and entomologists on a National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative research project to implement sustainable soil methods on strawberry farms – methods that won’t blow a hole in farmers’ budgets or overcomplicate their lives.

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