A Sustainable Harvest
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Stewards of the Land
For farmers, caring for the land is not just a goal, but a lifelong commitment. They depend on healthy soils to grow wholesome foods for us. California strawberry farmers are proud of their legacy of leadership in developing and adopting farming practices that conserve farmland and resources, and protect the environment.
California's strawberry farmers are among the most progressive and environmentally conscious in the state. Did you know California strawberry farmers:
- Received the 2008 Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for being a global leader in fumigant pesticides reduction.
- Pioneered drip irrigation and water conservation measures four decades ago.
- Are the world's most efficient strawberry growers because they are able to grow more fruit per acre while conserving water and using far fewer pesticides and fertilizers.
- Preserved thousands of acres of farmland that might otherwise be developed.
Back in the 1980’s strawberry farmers adopted drip irrigation. By placing drip lines next to the plants, water is delivered directly to the plant roots. This practice greatly reduces the amount of water needed to irrigate strawberries, and greatly reduces the runoff and the loss of nutrients to the environment.
Farmers want to use their expensive fertilizers in the soil to feed their crops, and not have them running off their land: the extra nutrients wastes resources and can cause problems downstream. California strawberry farmers are able to apply fertilizers through the drip irrigation system, placing the fertilizers right in the plant’s root zone, where the plant can use them.
The California Strawberry Commission funded a two-year study to look at the presence of nitrates (a form of nitrogen) in the soil on strawberry farms in California. The research shows that in most fields the amount of nitrogen applied is close to the amount taken up by the plant. They also found that at the end of the season, there is very little nitrate left in the field. These results show that the strawberry plants are utilizing nearly all of the nitrogen applied. As a result, there are minimal nitrates remaining to infiltrate groundwater aquifers.
In March 2012, the California Strawberry Commission and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) announced a partnership in fumigant reduction research. DPR has earmarked $500,000 to continue initial research done by the Commission evaluating the use of soilless media to produce strawberries.
In the 1970’s, California strawberry farmers were some of the first to incorporate integrated pest management (IPM) techniques in their fields. Some of these practices include using plants with flowers that attract beneficial insects: insects that will eat pests that can damage strawberries and plants. Other strategies include watering the roads between fields to reduce the dust that can attract mites, and using a machine that can vacuum damaging insects from the plants. More information about strawberry IPM measures at UC IPM Online.