Mystery Condition with 100% Death Rate Hits Strawberry Farms, Half a Million Plants Lost Already
A mysterious condition has swept through strawberry fields in Queensland, Australia, wiping out a particular variety of the popular crop.
“Half a million plants have died as a result of whatever has happened,” Adrian Schultz told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
Schultz, the president of the Queensland Strawberry Growers Association, said farmers have sent samples to a lab for testing to try to figure out what’s causing the problem.
“We’re seeing 100 percent death rates of a particular variety,” Schultz said. “The investigations are ongoing as to the reasons for that.”
The initial report indicates that the problem with the plants is not disease, “so we have to start following other paths of investigation,” Schultz told the ABC.
The variety involved in the deaths is called Scarlet Rose.
The young plants, called runners, were supplied by Sweets Strawberry Runners in Stanthorpe, in the eastern part of the state, according to the ABC.
Wally Sweet, general manager of the supplier, said about 10 growers were affected by the problem, but he has sent replacement plants of different varieties as replacements.
Sweet added that testing has ruled out residues of glyphosate and other chemicals or fungicides as being the source of the problem.
“Most of the growers have been very understanding,” Sweet told the ABC.
“He said it was the second year in a row that Scarlet Rose plants had died, although fewer runners were affected in 2022 despite it being abnormally wet,” according to the report.
Queensland grows most of Australia’s strawberries, ABC reported, with 50 million plants under cultivation.
Queensland’s prime strawberry-growing season is from May to October, which is winter to spring in the Land Down Under, according to the QSGA website.
It’s been a rough year for strawberry growers in the Northern Hemisphere as well, causing experts to predict scarcity of product as well as yet another bump in prices.
California strawberry growers, who produce most of the strawberries in the U.S., were hard-hit by heavy rainstorms accompanied by extensive flooding in March, according to Fresh Fruit Portal.
While the precipitation provided a welcome relief to a state in a perpetual state of drought, Soren Bjorn, president of the American division of Driscoll’s Inc., said the company is expecting large crop losses there as a result of the weather.
Bjorn said it costs the company about $30,000 per acre to grow strawberries in California.
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