NEW challenges facing Granite Belt strawberry growers took centre stage at an information day held at the Department of Agriculture Apple
thorpe Research Station last Wednesday.
Denis Persley led a discussion on strawberry viruses new to the Granite Belt and Peter Nimmo and Clinton McGrath discussed the emergence of scarab beetles.
Stanthorpe agronomist Kirsten Ellis, aka The Bug Lady, said for her the information sessions signalled the first time the industry and the department had come together to acknowledge the challenges specific to the burgeoning berry industry on the Granite Belt.
She said the industry, which had really only surfaced on the Granite Belt in the past six or seven years, was beginning to identify area specific challenges posed by increased production.
"For the past few years it's felt as though we've been flying in the dark and now we're finally getting some recognition," she said.
Such growing practices unique to Stanthorpe as planting before winter and allowing the plants to lay dormant during that frost season ready for spring and getting two years out of a runner, instead of pulling it out after the season, were contributing factors, Ms Ellis said.
"More producers mean more plants in the area, which means a higher chance of bringing in the odd sick plant.
"But, unlike other areas, the longer Stanthorpe growing season increases the time the infected plant is in the ground and, if the producer goes for a second a year, that ground doesn't get ploughed and sprayed out.
"It also affects the prevalence of the scarab beetle whose scarab beetle larvae eat the roots of plants.
"It's not really an issue for people on the coast but that two-year cycle employed by some producers means the ground isn't cleared out and beetles, along with that process, aren't killed."
Presentations were also given by Glynn Rence, from Sweets Strawberry Runners, who provided an update on new variety trials; an overview of soil moisture monitoring in straw; powdery mildew control; and overseas production systems.
Two new viruses detected on the Granite Belt are:
SMYEV (strawberry mild yellow edge virus) and;
SMoV (strawberry mottle virus).
The viruses, which are spread via aphids only become an issue if the plant contracts both at the same time.