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Strawberries for health
Growing strawberries
Variety selection
Pests and diseases
Insect pests
Fungal diseases
Spray timing
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Strawberries in your garden

The strawberry is a member of the rose family and belongs to the genus Fragaria derived from the Latin, fragare, meaning pleasant aroma. Strawberries originated from six main species, mostly from Europe, North America and Chile.

Strawberries are the most popular berry grown in the world. They are cultivated in most places in the world and world production is estimated at 2.8 million tonnes.

Strawberries for health

Strawberries are primarily eaten for their taste, but they do confer positive health benefits. Strawberries contain very high levels of a compound called ellagic acid, especially in the seeds and leaves, but the compound is also present in useful amounts in the fruit. Ellagic acid has a wide range of biological activity including anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties.

Strawberries are also high in Vitamin C, Vitamin K and fibre and contain useful amounts of Vitamins B1, B5 and B6, and potassium, folate, manganese, magnesium, iodine, biotin (a B group vitamin) and tryptophan (an essential amino acid for human nutrition).

Red-fleshed strawberries are also moderately high in anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are powerful antioxidants that are beneficial in protecting against a range of cancers and heart disease.

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Growing strawberries in the home garden

In the home garden, strawberries can be grown in containers, in hydroponic systems, or like the commercial growers do, in soil. Do not grow strawberries following solanaceous crops such as potatoes or tomatoes as these crops encourage the build-up of root diseases such as Verticillium sp. to which strawberries are very sensitive.

Fruit coming into contact with soil will rot. Straw is commonly used but any material such as plastic, newspaper or clean bark can be used.

Strawberries are rich in nutrients and these originate from elements in the soil. Feeding the soil with the nutrients removed by the plants while growing and fruiting is a key component in sustainable production systems.

Remove runners from the parent plants as these compete with fruit production.

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Variety selection

Choose a variety known for its suitability for the area and resistance to pest and disease attack. For some areas, this may not be well known, but neighbours or garden centre staff may be able to suggest suitable varieties.

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Pests and diseases of strawberries

 

Insect pests

Sucking insects (aphids, thrips and leafhoppers)

Control options:

1. Do nothing. This encourages ladybirds, lacewings and other natural controls.
2.

Chemical controls. Use chemicals that are:

  • safe to the applicator
  • not persistent in the environment
  • control the pest target but have minimal effect on other species
3. Management controls. Start with clean plants so insects are less likely to be carrying diseases.

 

Root feeding insects

Grass grub can be a major problem with strawberries. Management control is desirable, e.g., controlling the pest by encouraging birds and rolling at its source usually surrounding lawns.

Mites
Buying high health plants and not using chemicals that can affect natural predators are the best control options.

Slugs and snails
Drowning in beer, or using baits that are harmless to hedgehogs and other predators are effective controls.

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Fungal diseases

Botrytis

The disease carries over on old leaves, so starting with clean planting material and removing any dead and dying leaves and rotten fruit throughout the season is a key part of managing botrytis.

Mycosphaerella leaf spot (frog’s eye)

High infection levels result in smaller fruit with less flavour. Encouraging air movement around the plants will help prevent germination as this disease also needs high humidity.

Anthracnose

Can cause black spots on leaves and leaf stems and occasionally crown rot, but the main problem is black fruit rot. Removing old plants before planting new ones should ensure that the disease does not spread from these.

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Spray timing

Unnecessary spraying leads to resistance build-up and possible residue problems. Decisions about the need to spray should be based on what is happening in the strawberry plants, rather than what is written in a book, or what was done last year.

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