Since 1983, Swanton Berry Farms has been growing strawberries organically in California's central coast farming region.
Swanton Berry is now joined by farmers large and small – including gigantic growers like Driscoll's – in a bustling organic strawberry business.
Specific pest control alternatives include the use of resistant cultivars, cultural practices (crop rotation, cover crops, natural fertilizer), biological controls (predatory insect species and bacteria), and physical methods such as soil solarization and anaerobic disinfestation.
Soil solarization involves heating the soil by covering it with a clear plastic tarp for four to six weeks, which kills a wide range of soil-based pests while increasing the availability of nitrogen and other essential plant nutrients.
Anaerobic disinfestation (ASD) works by incorporating cheap carbon sources into topsoil that's covered with plastic tarp then irrigated.
Soil solarization and ASD are proven to work on large-scale berry farms, according to the USDA Pacific-Area Program for Methyl Bromide Alternatives and the University of California's department of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
Strawberries are vulnerable to soil-born pests, diseases, and weeds, especially when they're grown in large “monoculture” plots that allow disease to spread easily among the fruit plants.
In 2011, more than 35 scientists, including three Nobel laureates, urged the U.S. EPA to cancel all uses of methyl iodide, noting that a rigorously conducted analysis “… indicates that methyl iodide cannot be used safely as a soil fumigant and serves as a sound scientific basis for U.S. EPA to cancel all agricultural uses of methyl iodide.”
And the Department of Pesticide Regulation's hasty approval of methyl iodide flew in the face of this conclusion from its own Scientific Review Committee: “… adequate control of human exposure [to methyl iodide] would be difficult, if not impossible.”
Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation. Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Accessed at http://ucanr.org/sites/PAWMBA/Production/Strawberries/Anaerobic_Soil_Disinfestation/
Maker of methyl iodide scraps controversial pesticide. San Jose Mercury News. March 20, 2012. Accessed at http://www.mercurynews.com/central-coast/ci_20219822/maker-methyl-iodide-scraps-controversial-pesticide
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). World-Class Scientific Panel Strongly Criticizes Highly Toxic, Potential Strawberry Pesticide. February 11, 2010. Accessed at http://archive.panna.org/files/Release-MethylIodideSciencePanelReport-2-11-10.pdf
Californians for Pesticide Reform. Victory! Cancer-Causing Methyl Iodide Banned in California Accessed at http://www.pesticidereform.org/article.php?id=392
Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA). Safe Strawberries. Accessed at http://www.panna.org/current-campaigns/cancer-free-strawberries
Statewide IPM Program, Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California. Soil Solarization for Gardens & Landscapes Management. Accessed at http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74145.html