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UF Study Gives Strawberry Growers a Ray of (UV) Light at the End of Their Pest Tunnel

Joseph Montemayor and Marissa Cassaway at UVC field site_UVC strawberries_071921 (2).jpg
UF/IFAS
Marissa Cassaway and Joseph Montemayor at UVC field site on July 19, 2021.

Researchers with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are trying to reduce pests and diseases for Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry industry.

Researchers with the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences are trying to reduce pests and diseases for Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry industry.

Plant pathologist Natalia Pres has been using an ultraviolet light system for a few years now that prevents strawberry pathogens like powdery mildew, but fellow UF researchers are focused on whether that UVC radiation can also control plant pests like mites and thrips.

They first examined to see if the ultraviolet light would kill the mites that eat and infest strawberries, and found that the eggs, just like those of spider mites, die after being exposed to UVC.

The promising implication of these findings is that the UV light doesn’t harm other predatory pests that help control the eggs of mites and thrips that cause strawberry crop damage. These are called “biological controls,” in which one insect is deployed to eat a smaller, more damaging insect like mites or thrips.

The study’s results will become part of an integrated pest management system in order to help strawberry growers around the world.

Peres published a study this year showing the system, that can also help control powdery mildew.