in Agricultural Research
Strawberries--Without Help From Methyl Bromide
By Marcia Wood
January 8, 2001
Most of the bright-red, juicy
strawberries produced in this country are plucked from plants growing in soil
that's been fumigated with one of the world's most effective farm chemicals,
methyl bromide. The compound zaps soil-dwelling organisms that might otherwise
weaken or kill berry plants. But methyl bromide use is being phased out because
of evidence that the compound depletes the Earth's ozone layer.
At research laboratories in Davis, Fresno, and Salinas, Calif., ARS
scientists are scrutinizing environmentally friendly alternatives to methyl
bromide. Soil scientist Husein A. Ajwa and agricultural engineer Thomas J.
Trout at Fresno, for example, are using irrigation lines--called drip tapes--to
deliver candidate fumigants to strawberry fields.
The two researchers have probably explored more variations of that idea than
any other recent scientific team. The grower-sponsored
California Strawberry Commission is
funding part of this research. Applying fumigants through drip irrigation
systems, says Ajwa, may reduce worker exposure to the chemicals and may also
decrease the amount of chemicals needed to treat the fields. Among the best
performing of the compounds that Ajwa and Trout have examined is InLine. At
some sites where InLine was applied, marketable yields of strawberries were 95
to 110 percent of those from plots treated with methyl bromide in combination
with another compound, chloropicrin.
InLine is made up of about 60 percent 1,3-dichloropropene and about 35
percent chloropicrin. The manufacturer,
Dow AgroSciences LLC, is
seeking federal and state approvals for use of InLine in strawberry fields.
An article in the January issue of ARS' monthly Agricultural Research magazine
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief research branch.
Scientific contact: Husein A. Ajwa, ARS
Water Management Research
Laboratory, Fresno, Calif.; phone (559) 453-3105, fax (559) 453-3122,