Taking a hands-on approach to pest management has had winning results for one strawberry growing business in Essex.
Paul Roberts, co-founder and partner of Ashdown Nursery, established nearly 30 years ago, grows approximately 160,000 strawberry plants producing strawberries for Berry Gardens, in 1.6 hectares of greenhouses. “This year, we’ve had to deal with a significant increase in the number of spider mites, thrips and whitefly,” explains Mr Roberts. “Over the years, I have used a combination of crop protection methods and tried and tested pesticides. However, our armoury is limited and we’re realistic about the fact that we’re likely to lose more products in the future.
We’ve tried to introduce biopesticides and biological controls in combination with an integrated, hands-on approach to identifying and tackling pests. In the spring we can now produce up to 5.5kg of fruit per metre.
“This year, in early April, we started to use Botanigard every seven to ten days to control the whitefly in particular, and, incidentally, this also had an effect on the spider mite levels. We applied it four times and the results got better and better.” Not being averse to trying new things, Paul uses a range of different monitoring techniques and treatments for control. “We use a hand lance with a motorised sprayer to apply biopesticides manually, as there are a lot of places for pests to hide among the dense leaf cover on our strawberries. They don’t upset the atmosphere inside the greenhouse either, which is an added bonus. The whole team takes crop walking seriously and we use coloured tape to identify different pests in different areas. This is our way of ensuring that no infestations are missed during spraying, and that the pests don’t have chance to take hold. Going forward we’ll continue to focus more on biologicals where we can, as well as cultural control methods that minimise the need for continuous spraying,” he concludes.