Web tool helps time fungicides, boosting strawberry profits

08/06/2014 11:40:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

Natalia PeresCourtesy University of FloridaNatalia Peres, associate professor of plant pathology at the University of Florida, led development of a Web-based disease forecasting tool for strawberry growers.A University of Florida Web tool could boost strawberry growers' net profits by more than $1 million over a decade compared to calendar-based fungicide spraying.

The Strawberry Advisory System, developed by associate plant pathology professor Natalia Peres and her team, takes into account environmental factors such as temperature and leaf wetness before telling growers whether to apply fungicides.

Growers log onto the system at http://agroclimate.org or sign up to receive text or email alerts.

All three systems alert growers when conditions are conducive for development of botrytis or anthracnose and fungicides are needed.

Not all of the state's strawberry growers use the system, though.

But research conducted by Tatiana Borisova, an assistant professor of food and resource economics, might change that, according to a news release.

Along with doctoral student Ekaterina Vorotnikova, they worked to identify how much the Web took could increase grower profits.

Using a 26-acre farm as her average. Vorotnikova used data collected at UF's Gulf Coast Research and Education Center from 2006-2012 and plugged it into a 10-year computer model.

She found that using the Web tool increased net profit for strawberries with anthracnose by $1.7 million and $890,000 for those with botrytis.

The increased profits stemmed mostly from decreased spraying.

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