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Grower Notes and Pest News

Improving strawberry yields with biostimulants: a 2018-2019 study

Biostimulants are beneficial microorganisms or substances that can be used in crop production to improve plants' immune responses and their ability to perform well under biotic and abiotic stresses.  Biostimulants induce plant resistance to stress factors through systemic acquired resistance or induced systemic resistance.  When plants are exposed to virulent and avirulent pathogens, non-pathogenic microorganisms, and some chemicals, the systemic acquired resistance mechanism is activated through the salicylic acid pathway triggering the production of pathogenesis-related proteins.  On the other hand, when plants are exposed to beneficial microbes, the induced systemic resistance mechanism is activated through the jasmonic acid and ethylene pathways.  The jasmonic acid pathway also leads to pathogenesis-related protein production in plants.  In other words, when plants are exposed to pathogens, non-pathogens, or other compounds, various defense genes are activated through two major immune responses, helping plants fight the real infection or prepare them for potential infection.  Beneficial microbes and non-microbial biostimulants are like vaccines that prepare plants for potential health problems.

Earlier studies in tomato (Dara and Lewis, 2018; Dara, 2019a) and strawberry (Dara and Peck, 2018; Dara, 2019b) demonstrated varying levels of benefits to crop health and yield improvements from a variety of botanical, microbial, or mineral biostimulants and other supplements.  Some of the evaluated products resulted in significant yield improvement in both tomatoes and strawberries compared to the grower standard practices.  There are several biostimulant products in the market with a variety of active ingredients, and some also have major plant nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.  Depending on the crop, growing conditions, potential risk of pests and diseases, and other factors, growers can use one or more of these products.  A study was conducted to evaluate the impact of various biostimulants on the yield, quality, and shelf life of strawberries.


Strawberry cultivar San Andreas was planted late November 2018 and treatments were administered at the time of planting or soon after, depending on the protocol.  Each treatment had a 290' long strawberry bed where 10' of the bed at each end was left out as a buffer.  Then, six 30' long plots, each representing a replication, were marked within each bed with an 18' buffer between the plots.  Since the test products needed to be applied through the drip system, an entire bed was allocated for each treatment, except for the standard program that had one bed on either side of the experimental block, and plots were marked within each bed for data collection.  The following treatment regimens were used in the study:

1. Standard Program (SP): Major nutrients were provided in the form of Urea Ammonium Nitrate Solution 32-0-0, Ammonium Polyphosphate Solution, and Potassium Thiosulfate (KTS 0-0-25).  Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium were applied before planting in November 2018 at 170, 60, and 130 lb/acre, respectively.  From 15 January to 9 May 2019, a total of 26 lb of nitrogen, 13 lb of phosphorus, and 26 lb of potassium were applied through 13 periodic applications. 

2. SP + Terramera Program: Formulation labeled as Experimental A (cold-pressed neem 70%) was applied at 1.2% vol/vol immediately after planting.  Additional applications were made starting from 2 weeks after planting once every two weeks until the end of February (six times), followed by 13 weekly applications from the beginning of March.

3. SP + Locus Low Rate Program: This program contained Rhizolizer soil amendment (Trichoderma harzianum 1X108 CFU/ml and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens 1X109 CFU/ml) at 3 fl oz/acre, humic acid at 13.5 fl oz/acre, and kelp at 6.8 fl oz/acre.  The first application was made within 15 days and at 30 days after planting followed by once in February, March, and April 2019.

4. SP + Locus High Rate Program: This program contained Rhizolizer soil amendment (Trichoderma harzianum 1X108 CFU/ml and Bacillus amyloliquefaciens 1X109 CFU/ml) at 6 fl oz/acre, humic acid at 13.5 fl oz/acre, and kelp at 6.8 fl oz/acre.  The first application was made within 15 days and at 30 days after planting followed by once in February, March, and April 2019.

5. SP + BioGro Program: Transplants were treated with Premium Plant BB (Beauveria bassiana 1.1%) by spraying 2 fl oz/acre (1.29 ml in 850 ml of water).  About 7 weeks after planting, 30 gpa of Plant-X Rhizo-Pro (botanical extracts), 2 gpa of CHB Premium 21 (humic acid blend), 3 gpa of CHB Premium 6 (3% humic acids), and 5 gpa of NUE Flourish 4-12-0 were applied.  Starting from mid-February 2019, 15 gpa of Plant-X Rhizo-Pro, 1 gpa of CHB Premium 21, and 2 gpa of CHB Premium 6 were applied four times every 2 weeks until the end of March.  Starting from 5 April 2019, 8 weekly applications of 10 gpa of Plant-X Rhizo-Pro, 1 gpa of CHB Premium 21, 2 gpa of Premium 6, and 4 gpa of NUE Flourish 4-12-0 were made until 26 May 2019.

6. SP + Actagro Program: Structure 7-21-0 at 3 gpa and Liquid Humus 0-0-4 with 22% organic acids at 1 gpa were first applied within 1 week of planting and then three more times every 2 weeks until the end of December 2018.  Additional monthly applications were made from the end of January to the end of April 2019.

All the fertilizers and treatment materials were applied through the drip system using the Dosatron (Model D14MZ2) equipment.  The following parameters were measured during the experimental period from January to May 2019.

Canopy: The size of the plant canopy was determined on 21 January and again on 17 February 2019 by measuring the spread of the canopy across and along the length of the bed from 16 random plants within each plot, and calculating the area.

Initial flowering and fruiting: When flowering initiated, the number of flowers and developing fruits was counted from 16 random plants within each plot on 1 and 16 February 2019.

Fruit yield: Fruit was harvested weekly from every plant within each plot from 3 March to 26 May 2019 on 11 dates and the number and weight of the marketable and unmarketable fruit was determined.  Due to a technical error, some of the yield data from an additional date (29 March) were lost and excluded from the analysis.

Fruit firmness: The firmness of two marketable fruit from each of five random plants per plot was measured using a penetrometer on 5 April, and 16 and 26 May 2019.

Fruit sugar content: The sugar content from one marketable fruit from each of 10 plants per plot was measured using a refractometer on 5 April and 26 May 2019.

Leaf chlorophyll content: On 11 March and 31 May 2019, the chlorophyll content of one mature leaf from each of five random plants per plot was measured using a chlorophyll meter.

Postharvest disease: Marketable fruit harvested on 21 and 28 April, and 5 and 26 May 2019 was kept at the room temperature in perforated plastic containers (clamshells) and the growth of gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) or Rhizopus fruit rot fungus (Rhizopus spp.) was measured on a scale of 0 to 4 (where 0=no fungus, 1=1-25%, 2=26-50%, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100% fungal growth) 3 and 5 days after each harvest.

Data were analyzed using analysis of variance in Statistix software and significant means were separated using the Least Significant Difference means separation test.

Hamza Khairi taking flower and fruit counts (upper) and canopy measurements (lower).

Results and Discussion

Statistically significant differences among treatments were seen for the seasonal total number of unmarketable berries (P = 0.0172), the initial flower and fruit numbers on 1 February (P < 0.0014), the leaf chlorophyll content on 31 May (P = 0.0144), and the disease rating 3 days after the 28 April harvest (P = 0.0065).

Treatments did not differ (P > 0.05) in any other measured parameters of the plant, fruit quality, or yield.  However, the total seasonal fruit yield was 13 to 31% higher and the total marketable fruit yield was 10 to 36% higher in various treatment programs compared to the standard program.  The seasonal total of unmarketable fruit yield was also 4 to 25% higher in treatment programs than the standard program except that there were nearly 12% fewer unmarketable berries in the Actagro program compared to the standard program.

While treatments did not statistically differ for many of the measured parameters, numerical differences in marketable fruit yield could be helpful for some understanding of the potential of these biostimulants.  Additional studies with larger treatment plots would be useful for generating additional data.

Thanks to Dr. Jenita Thinakaran for the assistance at the start of the study, Hamza Khairi for his technical assistance throughout the study, the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for the crop maintenance, NorCal Nursery for the strawberry transplants, and Actagro, BioGro, Locus, and Terramera for their collaboration and financial support


Dara, S. K.  2019a.  Improving tomato yield with nutrient materials containing microbial and botanical biostimulants.  eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 6 June 2019

Dara, S. K.  2019b.  Evaluating the efficacy of anti-stress supplements on strawberry yield and quality. eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 10 August 2019

Dara, S. K. and D. Peck.  2018.  Microbial and bioactive soil amendments for improving strawberry crop growth, health, and fruit yields: a 2017-2018 study eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 3 August 2018

Dara, S. K. and E. Lewis.  2018.  Impact of nutrient and biostimulant materials on tomato crop health and yield. eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals, 9 January 2019

Posted on Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 3:48 PM

A sustainable way of producing strawberries using the new IPM model

A strawberry field in Nipomo (Photo by Surendra Dara)

The traditional Integrated Pest Management (IPM) model is focused on maintaining ecological balance in the cropping system with some attention to the economics of pest management related to the yield losses.  The new model, recently published in the Journal of Integrated Pest Management, is more comprehensive covering the management, business, and sustainability aspects of pest management and discusses various components within (Dara, 2019).  IPM, according to the new model, can be defined as an approach to managing pests in an economically viable, socially acceptable, and environmentally safe manner.

New IPM model from Dara, 2019

Spanish translation by Otto Rivera, Partners of the Americas Guatemala Farmer-to-Farmer Program

Based on the information generated by several studies in California and other reports, here is how the new IPM model can be adapted for producing strawberries sustainably.


A. Pest Management: The term “pest” includes arthropod pests, diseases, and weeds and the management includes the various practices used to suppress them.

  • Select varieties that produce good yields while resisting biotic and abiotic stresses. 
  • Choosing the right mulch and good irrigation and nutrient management contribute to good plant growth and health.  Micro-sprinklers save water and hold pest management benefits.
  • Explore the potential of beneficial microbes and biostimulants to improve nutrient and water absorption and to maintain crop health.  Inoculate the transplants with biostimulants to induce systemic resistance and periodically apply, especially after fumigation, to improve the beneficial microbial activity in the soil.
  • Healthy plants resist pest problems and reduce the need for control options.  Plant health can be maintained through good cultural practices (biostimulants, nutrients, irrigation, soil conditioning, etc.).
  • Predatory mites effectively control twospotted and Lewis mites, but natural enemy populations may not be sufficient to control the western tarnished plant bug.
  • Light traps can be useful for managing lepidopteran pests.
  • Tractor-mounted vacuums can be a part of the IPM program for managing the western tarnished plant bug, but their pest control efficiency is not necessarily superior to other strategies and are not without some associated risks.  For example, operation of vacuums requires fossil fuels and they are used at a much higher frequency than pesticide applications.
  • Use botanical, microbial, and chemical pesticides in combination.  Combinations can improve pest control efficacy and rotations reduce the risk of resistance development.
  • Rotating strawberries with crops such as broccoli can reduce the severity of certain soilborne diseases.  

Bug vacuums are operated multiple times each week to aspirate western tarnished plant bugs

B. Knowledge and Resources:

  • Understand pest biology, vulnerable stages of the pest, and appropriate strategies for each pest, different life stages, season, and budget.  For example, relying on natural enemies for the western tarnished plant bug control is not effective and can lead to higher pest damage. 
  • Accurately identify the issue through visual observation or laboratory diagnosis for proper corrective action.
  • Try to explore modern technology to monitor crop health.

C. Planning and Organization:

  • Regularly monitor crop health for early detection and prevention of potential pest problems.  For example, thorough scouting to determine the level of western tarnished plant bug infestation is very important for making the treatment decision.  Deformed fruit is not always an indicator for the treatment threshold as nearly 1/3 of the fruit deformity occurs from environmental and other causes not related to the western tarnished plant bug.
  • Look for signs of pesticide resistance and use appropriate strategies to reduce the risk.
  • Maintain records of pest occurrence, seasonal trends, strategies that worked, and all relevant information, to build institutional knowledge for future use.
  • Take the right action at the right time.

D. Communication:

  • Regularly attend extension events and read research updates.  Choose or design practices that are ideal for your farm based on the research updates.
  • Periodically provide training to all individuals on the farm who directly or indirectly contribute to good agriculture practices.
  • Share good management practices with each other for area-wide improvement of crop production and pest management.
  • Try to educate the public so that they make better choices when purchasing produce.  For example, good IPM practices can be more sustainable than organically approved practices and well-informed consumers can make a choice among conventional, organic, or sustainably produced grains, fruits, and vegetables.  Public education can also help to eliminate otherwise good produce that is discarded because of minor imperfections.  In strawberry, fruit deformity is caused due to the feeding of the western tarnished plant bug, genetic factors, poor pollination, or very low temperatures.  Although most of the deformed strawberries, especially those from insect damage, have equal quality as marketable strawberries, they are discarded because of their shape.  If the consumer market can accept deformed strawberries that still have good taste and nutritional quality, it can significantly reduce the wastage and the amount of pesticides sprayed to control the western tarnished plant bug.

Deformed, but consumable, strawberries such as these are discarded (Photo by Surendra Dara)


  • A strong IPM program can help growers produce sustainably while ensuring profitability.
  • Consumer choices depend on their knowledge of sustainable agriculture.  When they understand that produce with an IPM or Sustainably Produced label is safe for human and environmental health, it will have a major impact on food production systems.


  • The current interpretation or perception of sustainability does not reflect true sustainability in terms of environmental health, profitability, food security, social equality, and other elements.  A good IPM model can address all these issues to ensure farm productivity, food affordability, and environmental safety.


  • Research and outreach component is the foundation of IPM to identify pest issues, develop appropriate knowledge for their management, and effectively disseminate the related information.  Supporting research and outreach efforts of universities and other entities is essential for continuing IPM.


In addition to the below references, there are several articles in this eJournal on crop production and protection topics related to strawberry.  

  • Download “Biology and management of spider mites in strawberry” in English and Spanish at or scan the QR code.  Information about different species of spider mites and predatory mites is available in this guide.
Posted on Sunday, August 11, 2019 at 2:21 PM

Evaluating the efficacy of anti-stress supplements on strawberry yield and quality

Good nutrient management is essential not only for optimal plant growth, but also for maintaining good plant health and the ability of the plant to withstand biotic and abiotic stressors.  Strawberry, a $3.2 billion commodity in California, requires good nutrient, water, and health management throughout its lengthy fruit production cycle.  In addition to the primary nutrient inputs, certain supplements can be beneficial to the crop.  A study was conducted in fall-planted strawberries from 2017 to 2018 using a plant-based anti-stress agent, humates, and sulfur, and a special formulation of NPK as supplements to the standard fertility program to evaluate their impact on strawberry fruit yields and quality.


Strawberry cultivar Albion was planted during the second week of December 2017 in 38” wide beds with two rows of plants per bed.  This study included the following treatments:

1. Grower standard (GS) program included a total of 6.13 gallons of Urea Ammonium Nitrate Solution 32-0-0, 2.59 gallons of Ammonium Polyphosphate Solution, and 6.95 gallons of Potassium Thiosulfate (KTS 0-0-25) to 0.5 acres of the strawberry field.  These fertilizers were applied between 5 January and 18 May 2018 approximately at weekly intervals through the drip irrigation system.  Additionally, 1 quart of Nature's Source Organic Plant Food 3-1-1 was applied on 5 and 22 January 2018 and again on 5 February 2018. 
2. GS + Bluestim at 3.6 lb/ac in 53 gallons applied as a foliar spray with 0.125% Dyne-Amic once every three weeks for a total of six times.  Bluestim is an osmoregulator containing >96% of glycine betaine that is expected to protect plants from abiotic stressors.
3. GS + SKMicrosource Ultrafine powder at 1.4 oz in 4 gallons applied as a foliar spray once a month for a total of three times along with SKMicrosource prill applied at 500 lb/ac at the base of the plant once.  Both products contain elemental sulfur, sulfite, and sulfate along with potassium, micronutrients, and rare earth minerals.  Additionally, the prill form also has humates.  These products are expected to improve plants' natural defenses against biotic stressors like pests and diseases.
4. GS + ISO NPK 3-1-3 at 8 fl oz/ac in 100 gallons once every two weeks for a total of four times.  ISO NPK 3-1-3 contains isoprenoid amino complex extracted from a desert shrub guayule (Pathenium argentatum), which is expected to improve nutrient uptake and protect plants from abiotic stressors.

The first application of supplements for treatments 2-4 started on 1 March 2018.  Each treatment had a 30' long plot marked on a bed replicated four times in a randomized complete block design.  The fruit was harvested one to two times per week between 3 April and 14 June 2018 and the weight of marketable and unmarketable berries was determined for each plot.  Using a penetrometer, fruit firmness was measured from four fruits from each plot on 3, 16, and 23 April and 14 May 2018.  Sugar content was also measured from two fruits from each plot on those four sampling dates.  Postharvest health was measured from the fruit harvested on 16 and 23 April and 21 and 31 May 2018.  Fruit was kept in perforated plastic containers (clamshells) at room temperature and the growth of gray mold (Botrytis cinerea) and Rhizopus fruit rot (Rhizopus spp.) was rated 3 and 5 days after harvest on a scale of 0 to 4 (where 0=no disease, 1=1-25% fruit with fungal infection, 2=26-50% infection, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100%).  Data were analyzed using the analysis of variance in Statistix software.


There were no statistically significant (P > 0.05) differences among the treatments in any of the measured parameters.  However, the marketable fruit yield was nearly 11% higher in the treatment that received SKMicrosource supplements.  While the average sugar content was 9.5 oBx in the grower standard, it varied between 9.7 and 9.8 in other treatments.  Similarly, the average disease rating during the postharvest fruit evaluation was 1.00 for the standard at 3 days after harvest, while it varied between 0.25 and 0.50 for the other treatments.  Average disease rating at 5 days after harvest was between 2.25 and 2.50 for all treatments.

Table 1. Total marketable and unmarketable fruit yield per plot during the study period

Table 2. Fruit firmness and sugar content on four observation dates and their averages

Table 3. Postharvest fruit disease rating 3 and 5 days after four harvest dates

The crop was generally healthy during the study period and there were no signs of any abiotic stresses such as salinity, water stress, and extreme temperature fluctuations, or biotic stresses such as pests or diseases except for uniform weed growth in the furrows and some areas of the beds.  Since these supplements are expected to help the plants under stressful conditions, significant differences could not be found, probably due to the lack of unfavorable growth conditions.  It also appears from the manufacturer's studies that ISO NPK 3-1-3 performs better at 4 fl oz/acre - half the rate recommended for this study.  Additional studies can help further evaluate the potential of these supplements both under normal and stressed conditions and at different application rates and frequencies.

Thanks to the technical assistance of Dr. Jenita Thinakaran in carrying out the study, the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for the crop maintenance, the financial support of Biobest and Heart of Nature, and to Beem Biologics for providing the test material.

Posted on Saturday, August 10, 2019 at 11:52 AM

Five shades of gray mold control in strawberry: evaluating chemical, organic oil, botanical, bacterial, and fungal active ingredients

Botrytis fruit rot or gray mold, caused by Botrytis cinerea, is common fruit disease in California strawberries (Koike et al. 2018).  Botrytis cinerea has a wide host range infecting several commercially important crops including blueberry (Saito et al. 2016), grapes (Saito et al., 2019), and tomato (Breeze, 2019).  Fungal infection can cause flower or fruit rot.  Fruit can be infected directly or through a latent infection in the flowers.  Moist and cool conditions favor fungal infections and increased sugar content in the ripening fruit can also contribute to the disease development.  Initial symptoms of infection appear as brown lesions and a thick mat of gray conidia is characteristic symptom in the later stages of infection.  As chemical fungicides are primarily used for gray mold control, fungicide resistance is a common problem around the world (Panebianco et al., 2015; Liu et al., 2016; Stockwell et al., 2018; Weber and Hahn, 2019).  In strawberry, cultural control options such as removing diseased plant material or using cultivars with traits that can reduce gray mold infections may not be practical when the disease is widespread in the field or cultivar choice is made based on other factors.  Non-chemical control options are necessary to help reduce the risk of chemical fungicide resistance, prolong the life of available chemical fungicides, achieve desired disease control, and to maintain environmental health.  Although there are several botanical and microbial fungicides available for gray mold control, limited information is available on their efficacy in California strawberries.  A study was conducted in the spring of 2019 to evaluate the efficacy of several chemical, botanical, and microbial fungicides in certain combinations and rotations to help identify effective options for an integrated disease management strategy.


Strawberry cultivar San Andreas was planted late November, 2018 and the study was conducted in April and May, 2019.  Each treatment had a 20' long strawberry plot with two rows of plants replicated in a randomized complete block design.  Plots were maintained without any fungicidal applications until the study was initiated.  Table 1 contains the list of treatments, application rates and dates of application, and Table 2 contains the type of fungicide used and their mode of action.  Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae s.l. are California isolates of entomopathogenic fungi, isolated from an insect and a soil sample, respectively.  These fungi are pathogenic to a variety of arthropods and some strains are formulated as biopesticides for arthropod control.  However, earlier studies in California demonstrated that these fungi are also known to antagonize plant pathogens such as Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum Race 4 (Dara et al., 2016) and Macrophomina phaseolina (Dara et al., 2018) and reduce the disease severity.  To further evaluate their efficacy against B. cinerea, these two fungi were also included in this study alternating with two chemical fungicides.

Treatments were applied with a CO2-pressurized backpack sprayer using 66.5 gpa spray volume.  Five days before the first spray application and 3 days after each application, all ripe fruit were harvested from each plot and incubated at the room temperature in vented plastic containers.  The level of gray mold on fruit from each plot was rated using a 0 to 4 scale (where 0=no disease, 1=1-25% fruit with fungal infection, 2=26-50% infection, 3=51-75%, and 4=76-100%) 3 and 5 days after each harvest (DAH).  Due to the rains, fruit could not be harvested after the 3rd spray application for disease rating, but was harvested and discarded after the rains to avoid cross infection for the following week's harvest.  Data were analyzed using analysis of variance using Statistix software and significant means were separated using Least Significant Difference separation test.


Gray mold occurred at low to moderate levels during the study period.  Along with B. cinerea, there were a few instances of minor fungal infections from Rhizopus spp. (Rhizopus fruit rot) and Mucor spp. (Mucor fruit rot).  Pre-treatment disease ratings were statistically not significant (P = 0.6197 and 0.5741) 3 and 5 DAH.  While the chemical standard treatment with the rotation of Captan, Merivon, Switch, and Pristine (treatment 2) appeared to result in the lowest disease rating throughout the observation period, treatments 3 and 5 after the 1st spray application, treatments 5 and 11 along with 3, 4 and 6 after the 2nd spray application, and treatments 3 and 5 along with 11 after the 4th spray application also had similar disease control at 3 DAH.  When disease at 5 DAH was compared, the lowest rating was seen in treatment 2 after the 1st and 2nd spray applications, and treatments 2, 3, and 11 after the 4th application.  Several other treatments also provided statistically similar control during these days.

When the average disease rating for the three post-treatment observation events was considered, treatment 2, 3, 5, and 11 had the lowest disease at both 3 and 5 DAH.  Treatments 4 and 12 at 3 DAH also had a statistically similar level of disease control to treatment 2. 

In general, most of the treatments provided moderate to high control compared to the disease in untreated control when the post-treatment averages were considered.  Only treatment 7 and 13 had lower control at 3 DAH.


This study compared a variety of registered and developmental products along with two entomopathogenic fungi in managing B. cinerea.  Considering the fungicide resistance problem in B. cinerea in multiple crops, having multiple non-chemical control options is very important to achieve desirable control with integrated disease management strategies.  Since the active ingredients in the botanical and bacterial fungicides used in this study are not public, discuss will be limited on their modes of action and efficacy at this point.  Similarly, the active ingredient of WXF-17001 is also not known, however, an earlier study by Calvo-Garrido et al. (2014) demonstrated that a fatty acid-based natural product reduced B. cinerea conidial germination by 54% and disease severity in grapes by 96% compared to untreated control.  The product used by Calvo-Garrido et al. (2014) is thought to be fungistatic and reduce the postharvest respiratory activity and ethylene production in fruits.

While chemical fungicides have a specific mode of action, biological and other products act in multiple manners either directly antagonizing the plant pathogen or by triggering the plant defenses.  For example, amending the potting medium with biochar resulted in induced systemic resistance in tomato and reduced B. cinerea severity by 50% (Mehari et al., 2015).  Luna et al. (2016) also showed that application of β-aminobutyric acid and jasmonic acid promoted seed germination and long-term resistance to B. cinerea in tomato.  Burkholderia phytofirmans, beneficial endophytic bacterium, offered protection against B. cinerea in grapes by mobilizing carbon resources (callose deposition), triggering plant immune system (hydrogen peroxide production and priming of defense genese), and through antifungal activity (Miotto-Vilanova et al. 2016).  Similarly, entomopathogenic fungi such as B. bassiana are also known to induce systemic resistance against plant pathogens (Griffin et al. 2006).  Compared to other options evaluated in the study, entomopathogenic fungi have an advantage of controlling both arthropod pests and diseases, while also having plant growth promoting effect (Dara et al. 2017).

Rotating fungicides with different mode of actions reduces the risk of resistance development and using some combinations will also maintain control efficacy.  This study provided the efficacy of multiple control options and their combinations and rotations for B. cinerea.  This is also the first study demonstrating the efficacy of entomopathogenic fungi against B. cinerea in strawberry.

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Sipcam Agro and Westbridge for funding the study, technical assistance of Hamza Khairi for data collection, and the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for the crop maintenance.


Breeze, E.  2019.  97 Shades of gray: genetic interactions of the gray mold, Botrytis cinerea, with wild and domesticated tomato.  The Plant Cell 31: 280-281.

Calvo-Garrido, C., A.A.G. Elmer, F. J. Parry, I. Viñas, J. Usall,  R. Torres,  R.H. Agnew, and  N. Teixidó.  2014.  Mode of action of a fatty acid-based natural product to control Botrytis cinerea in grapes.  J. Appl. Microbiol. 116: 967-979.

Dara, S. K., S. S. Dara, S.S.R. Dara, and T. Anderson.  2016.  First report of three entomopathogenic fungi offering protection against the plant pathogen, Fusarium oxysporum f.sp. vasinfectum.  UC ANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals  

Dara, S. K., S.S.R. Dara, and S. S. Dara.  2017.  Impact of entomopathogenic fungi on the growth, development, and health of cabbage growing under water stress.  Amer. J. Plant Sci. 8: 1224-1233.

Dara, S.S.R., S. S. Dara, and S. K. Dara.  2018.  Preliminary report on the potential of Beauveria bassiana and Metarhizium anisopliae s.l. in antagonizing the charcoal rot causing fungus Macrophomina phaseolina in strawberry.  UC ANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals

Griffin, M. R., B. H. Ownley, W. E. Klingeman, and R. M. Pereira.  2006.  Evidence of induced systemic resistance with Beauveria bassiana against Xanthomonas in cotton.  Phytopathol. 96.

Koike, S. T., G. T. Browne, T. R. Gordon, and M. P. Bolda.  2018.  UC IPM pest management guidelines: strawberry (diseases).  UC ANR Publication 3468.

Liu, S., Z. Che, and G. Chen.  2016.  Multiple-fungicide resistance to carbendazim, diethofencardb, procymidone, and pyrimethanil in field isolates of Botrytis cinerea from tomato in Henan Province, China.  Crop Protection 84: 56-61.

Luna, E., E. Beardon, S. Ravnskov, J. Scholes, and J. Ton.  2016.  Optimizing chemically induced resistance in tomato against Botrytis cinerea.  Plant Dis. 100: 704-710.

Mehari, Z. H., Y. Elad, D. Rav-David, E. R. Graber, and Y. M. Harel.  2015.  Induced systemic resistance in tomato (Solanum lycopersicum) against Botrytis cinerea by biochar amendment involves jasmonic acid signaling.  Plant and Soil 395: 31-44.

Miotto-Vilanova, L., C. Jacquard, B. Courteaux, L. Wortham, J. Michel, C. Clément, E. A. Barka, and L. Sanchez.  2016.  Burkholderia phytofirmans PsJN confers grapevine resistance against Botrytis cinerea via a direct antimicrobial effect combined with a better resource mobilization.  Front. Plant Sci. 7: 1236.

Panebianco, A., I. Castello, G. Cirvilleri, G. Perrone, F. Epifani, M. Ferrarra, G. Polizzi, D. R. Walters, and A. Vitale.  2015.  Detection of Botrytis cinerea field isolates with multiple fungicide resistance from table grape in Sicily.  Crop Protection 77: 65-73.

Saito, S., T. J. Michailides, and C. L. Xiao.  2016.  Fungicide resistance profiling in Botrytis cinerea populations from blueberry in California and Washington and their impact on control of gray mold.  Plant Dis. 100: 2087-2093.

Saito, S., T. J. Michailides, and C. L. Xiao.  2019.  Fungicide-resistant phenotypes in Botrytis cinerea populations and their impact on control of gray mold on stored table grapes in California.  European J. Plant Pathol. 154: 203-213.

Stockwell, V. O., B. T> Shaffer, L. A. Jones, and J. W. Pscheidt.  2018.  Fungicide resistance profiles of Botrytis cinerea isolated from berry crops in Oregon.  Abstract for International Congress of Plant Pathology: Plant Health in A Global Economy; 2018 July 29-Aug 3; Boston, MA.

Weber, R.W.S. and M. Hahn.  2019.  Grey mould disease of strawberry in northern Germany: causal agents, fungicide resistance and management strategies.  Appl. Microbiol. Biotechnol. 103: 1589-1597.

Posted on Monday, July 8, 2019 at 4:13 PM

Improving tomato yield with nutrient materials containing microbial and botanical biostimulants

Transplanting tomatoes

There has been a growing interest in the recent years in exploring the potential of biostimulants in crop production.  Biostimulants are mineral, botanical, or microbial materials that stimulate natural processes in plants, help them tolerate biotic and abiotic stressors, and improve crop growth and health.  Several recent studies demonstrated the potential of the biostimulant or soil amendments in improving crop yields and health.  For example, in a 2017 field study, silicon, microbial, botanical and nutrient materials improved processing tomato yields by 27 to 32% compared to the standard fertility program (Dara and Lewis, 2018).  In a 2017-2018 strawberry field study, some biostimulant and soil amendment products resulted in a 13-16% increase in marketable fruit yield compared to the grower standard (Dara and Peck, 2018).  He et al. (2019) evaluated three species of Bacillus and Pseudomonas putida alone and in different combinations in tomatoes grown in laboratory and greenhouse.  The combination of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, B. pumilus, and P. putida increased the plant biomass and the root/shoot ratio.  Significant increase in fruit yield, between 18 and 39%, was also achieved from individual or co-inoculations of these bacteria.  A field study was conducted in processing tomato to evaluate the impact of nutrient products containing beneficial microbes and botanical extracts on tomato yields and fruit quality.

Tomato plots - each treatment is marked by a colored flag


The study was conducted from late spring to fall of 2018 to evaluate three treatment programs compared to the grower standard.  Tomato cultivar Quali T27 was seeded on 25 April and transplanted on 19 June using a mechanical transplanter.  Due to high temperatures at the time of planting, some transplants died and they were re-planted on 28 June.  Herbicide Matrix was applied on 5 July and Poast was applied on 13 July followed by hand weeding on 27 July.  Crop was irrigated, fertigated, and treatements were applied through a drip system.  Overhead sprinkler irrigation was additionally used immediately after transplanting.  The following treatments were included in the study:

1. Grower standard: 10-34-0 Ammonium Polyphosphate Solution was applied at 10 gal/ac at the time of transplanting followed by the application of UAN-32 Urea Ammonium Nitrate Solution 32-0-0 at the rate of 15 units of N at 3, 6, and 13 weeks after planting and 25 units of N at 7 weeks after planting.

2. Grower standard + BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0: BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0 contains 16% nitrogen and 40% phosphate along with B. amyloliquefaciens, B. licheniformis, B. pumilus, and B. subtilis at 1X108 cfu/gram.  Crop 16-40-0 was applied at 1 lb/ac at the time of planting followed by the application 0.5 lb/ac at 3, 6, and 9 weeks after planting.

3. Grower standard 85% + BiOWiSH Crop 16-40-0: Crop 16-40-0 was applied at the same rate and frequency as in treatment 2, but the grower standard was reduced to 85%.

4. RootRx: RootRx contains 5% soluble potash and proprietary botanical extracts and is supposed to stimulate a broad range of antioxidant compounds in the plant.  It was applied at 0.25 gal/ac at the time of planting followed by the application of 0.5 gal/ac at 3, about 7, and 13 weeks after planting.

Each treatment contained 30' long bed with a single row of tomato plants and replicated five times in a randomized complete block design.  Along with the fruit yield, the sugar content of the fruit and leaves [using a refractometer from three fruits (two measurements from each) and four leaves per plot], chlorophyll content (using a digital chlorophyll meter from four leaves per plot), and frost damage levels (using a visual rating on a 0 to 5 scale where 0 = no frost damage and 5 = extreme frost damage with a complete plant death) were also monitored.  Due to an unknown reason, some plants in the fifth replication were stunted halfway through the study.  Data from the fifth replication were excluded from the analysis.  Data were subjected to the analysis of variance using Statistix software and significant means were separated using the Tukey's HSD test. 


Fruit yield: Marketable and unmarketable fruit yield was monitored from 27 August to 13 November.  Seasonal total for marketable fruit was significantly (P = 0.04) different among the treatments where RootRx resulted in a 26.5% increase over the grower standard while Crop 16-4-0 with the full rate of the grower standard had an 8%, and with 85% of the grower standard had a 13.2% increase.  It appeared that a similar improved yield response was also seen when Crop 16-40-0 was used at a reduced rate of the grower standard in other studies conducted by the manufacturer.

Sugar content: Sugar content of the fruit and leaves was measured once after the last harvest and there were no significant (P > 0.05) difference among the treatments.

Chlorophyll content: Chlorophyll content was measured once after the last harvest and there was no significant (P > 0.05) difference among the treatments.

Frost damage: Study was concluded after frosty conditions in November 2018 damaged the crop.  Although there were no statistically significant (P > 0.05) differences, plants treated with RootRx had the lowest rating of 2.

Means and standard errors of the measured parameters

Acknowledgements: Thanks to Jenita Thinakaran and the field staff at the Shafter Research Station for their technical assistance, Plantel Nurseries for providing transplants, and BiOWiSH Technologies and Redox Chemicals for their financial support.


Dara, S. K. and D. Peck.  2018.  Microbial and bioactive soil amendments for improving strawberry crop growth, health, and fruit yields: a 2017-2018 study.  UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals (

Dara, S. K. and E. Lewis.  2018.  Impact of nutrient and biostimulant materials on tomato crop health and yield.  UCANR eJournal of Entomology and Biologicals (

He. Y., H. A. Pantigoso, Z. Wu, and J. M. Vivanco.  2019.  Co-inoculation of Bacillus sp. and Pseudomonas putida at different development stages acts as a biostimulant to promote growth, yield and nutrient uptake of tomato.  J. Appl. Microbiol.

Posted on Thursday, June 6, 2019 at 4:15 PM

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