“With this system, I think we can really make some good, science-based decisions in regard to what we should spray or what we shouldn’t spray. It’s a much more thorough and science-based way to control diseases.”
Schnabel, along with colleagues at the University of Georgia, developed the test for brown rot on peaches, but he says it seems to work even better with Botrytis on strawberries.
With a little training, growers should be able to conduct the test themselves, he says.
The test plates have special markings so growers can measure the fungal growth. They then enter that information into a Web application, which generates a response for each chemical class about what steps the grower should take.
“It’s a very timely way of receiving information,” Schnabel says.
An $850,000 USDA specialty crop initiative grant funded development and the first few years of testing. Eventually, if the test is marketed commercially, he expects it to be reasonably priced.
“The information you’re getting is so valuable that I think that it will definitely be worthwhile for growers to do this,” he says.
The test can be used with any disease caused by a fungus that sporulates readily, including gray mold on grapes and citrus or brown rot on cherries and other stone fruits.
The strawberry disease forecast tool can be accessed at http://agroclimate.org/tools/ strawberry.