Florida Producer: It’s the Greening of Strawberries

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Citrus Greening has devastated Florida’s citrus industry. The state’s strawberry producers are concerned about their future with Neopestalotiopsis Fruit Rot disease.

Photo by Natalia Peres/UF: Shows the effect of Neopestalotiopsis Fruit Rot on strawberries.

It may still be in its infancy, but Neopestalotiopsis Fruit Rot is taking its toll on the Florida strawberry industry. One Florida producer is concerned about its impact moving forward.

“I would call it the ‘Greening of strawberries,’” said Matt Parke, farm manager of Parkesdale Farms in Plant City, Florida. “There’s no cure for it, as we know. This is the third season that we know what it is, and we still have more questions than answers.”

Decreased Volume

Parke said volume has been way off this year, maybe two-thirds of what last year’s crop produced. It varies from farmer to farmer. While the weather played a role in decreased production, so has Neopestalotiopsis.

“The whole industry was impacted by it, I think,” Parke said. “Just on one pick, I probably threw 400 flats to the acre on the ground. They were just totally ate up with it.

“I would say for the next three years, it’s going to take a hit on our industry.”

Disease Background

The disease has quickly spiraled out of control in three years. It was first discovered during the 2018-19 season in five farms and was attributed to one nursery source in North Carolina. More than 20 farms experienced the disease during the 2019-20 season, and the disease was attributed to two nursery sources early in the season in North Carolina and Canada.

It was discovered this year in fields that had it the prior season.

Neopestalotiopsis causes leaf spots on strawberry plants. It develops quickly and produces spores on the leaves. It can cause severe leaf spotting and fruit rot under favorable weather conditions.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to detect because of other similar leaf spot diseases that growers must contend with like leaf scorch, leaf blotch and Cercospora leaf spot.