Online Strawberry Monitoring System Set To Expand Services

Online Strawberry Monitoring System Set To Expand Services

Natalia Peres Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

Natalia Peres
Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

A web-based strawberry monitoring system that will soon expand to South Carolina is one of many reasons Natalia Peres, an associate professor of plant pathology at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, recently won the Lee M. Hutchins Award from the American Phytopathological Society (APS).

The Hutchins award goes to the author or authors of significant published research on basic or applied aspects of diseases of perennial fruit plants, according to the society’s website.
“APS is probably the most prestigious society worldwide in our field of plant pathology, so I am very honored with the nomination and the award,” said Peres.

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With the help of Clyde Fraisse, a UF/IFAS colleague, Peres released the Strawberry Advisory System in 2012 to help Florida growers. The tool uses data such as temperature and leaf wetness to tell growers when to spray fungicide to ward off diseases.

Before the system was developed, strawberry farmers traditionally sprayed weekly during the November-to-March growing season. Spraying more often than needed wastes money and can lead to fungicide resistance, she said.

Peres expects the strawberry web tool to be used in South Carolina this spring. She’s also tested it in Iowa, North Carolina, and Ohio. The system has proved successful in the latter three states, but scientists still must work on how to automatically access the weather data, she said.

She also has won a $114,000 USDA grant to develop a similar spray monitoring system for blueberries. That project will start in January, and Peres expects to have the system in place for growers in two years.