Scientists at the University of Hertfordshire, and precision farming specialists Agri-tech Services, have created a new system to calculating when to apply fungicides to control strawberry powdery mildew, caused by Podosphaera aphanis.
According to AHDB data, the disease can result in yield losses of between 20 and 70 per cent. The new system, which can be used on smartphones or computers, records humidity and temperature, and forecasts when the fungus is likely to grow. Using the model, the tool alerts growers to high-risk periods when fungicide sprays are needed. Based on trials, the average cost benefit of the system in 2018 was £250/ha, with no detriment to the crop.
Dr Avice Hall MBE from the School of Life and Medical Sciences at the University of Hertfordshire commented, “This useful tool can help strawberry growers better manage the use of fungicides. Risk of disease development is clearly visualized on screen and updated continually. It will allow them to control the disease throughout the season with fewer fungicide applications and record their fungicide use with ease from any device. It will enable growers to be proactive, rather than reactive, which helps reduce the use of fungicides, decreases costs and reduces environmental impacts – thus delivering high quality fruit to the consumer.”
During the 2019 season, the system was validated on 8 commercial sites throughout the UK and is now available to purchase.
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