Despite some disease pressure, strawberries are looking good

(04/05/23) HOLDEN, La. — The strawberry crop is coming in at full blast right now, with some growers calling it one of their best crops.

“We have been having perfect strawberry weather,” said Rhonda Poche, co-owner of Landry-Poche Farm near Holden. “When you have 50-degree nights and 70-degree days, you have perfect strawberry-growing weather.”

Poche and her family grow about 8 acres of strawberries, which means they must plant nearly 110,000 plants.

Poche said the hot weather a few weeks ago made the plants think it was springtime.

“Then we had the little cold snap a few weeks ago and that knocked them back some,” she said. “But the weather since has been really good for the berries.”

Poche said they had a little damage from a fungal disease that has caused major damage for some growers.

AgCenter horticulture agent Clark Robertson said the disease that is causing damage to some growers’ plants is Pestalotia leaf spot and fruit rot caused by Neopestalotiopsis sp.

“It’s a fungus, and it will produce spores that can easily be spread by workers handling the plants,” he said. “By workers moving through the fields, it can cause spores to become windblown as well.”

Robertson said fungicides used to treat the disease are expensive.

“Having to do additional applications is costing the farmer each time, which cuts into his profits,” he said.

Poche said the work she is doing is more than farming. It’s also a learning laboratory.

“I started hosting school field trips about 20 years ago and, you know, it’s just good to give back to the community,” she said. “I like children and I like to educate them.”

Poche said the strawberry industry is dwindling in the state, and “if I can get just one interested in farming, that would be great.”

According to the latest LSU AgCenter Ag Summary, Louisiana has nearly 50 commercial strawberry growers with a gross farm value of $9 million. That’s down from 90 growers in 2005 with a gross farm value of $11.3 million.

Woman with strawberries.

Rhonda Poche, of the Landry-Poche Farm near Holden, shows off some of her strawberries as she prepares for a school field trip to the farm. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

Man looking at strawberry plants in field.

LSU AgCenter horticulture agent Clark Robertson checks strawberry plants for disease on the Landry-Poche Farm near Holden. Photo by Johnny Morgan/LSU AgCenter

4/5/2023 8:47:22 PM
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