Lights Out: UV System Helpful Against Strawberry Pathogen

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When the light goes on, it’s lights out for a ruinous strawberry pathogen.

Just imagine this: Pulling an ultraviolet lamp behind a tractor out into your farm in the middle of the night, pointing the UV light at the strawberries and zapping powdery mildew right out of the leaves and fruit.

Natalia Peres

That’s the idea behind new research led by UF/IFAS plant pathology Professor Natalia Peres. A new study she led shows that UV light kills powdery mildew, a disease that can significantly damage strawberries. “UV treatments applied once or twice weekly were as effective as the best available fungicides applied on similar schedules for control of strawberry powdery mildew,” Peres said. “It’s not a one-time fluke.”

The UV equipment has to be custom-built, but the cost is much lower than that of sprayer equipment, and there is no additional cost other than labor after the unit is built, she said. Since UV applications have to be done at night, Peres and her team have been collaborating with Saga Robotics from Norway on a UV robot-like system that could reduce the labor cost.

Benefits of the UV light system come as good news to strawberry farmers. UF/IFAS economic research shows strawberries are about a $300 million-per-year industry in Florida.

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