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Anticipating the phaseout of methyl bromide, the USDA-ARS small fruit breeding program at Beltsville, Md., discontinued soil fumigation in strawberry breeding and selection trials in the mid 1990s. To address resulting weed and pathogen pests, a modified or advanced matted row system was developed. This system uses matted row-type culture, established on raised beds with subsurface drip irrigation and organic mulch. The mulch is the residue of a killed cover crop that fixes some nitrogen and provides an economical, biodegradable mulch for suppressing weeds and reducing erosion. Since 1996, the small fruit breeding program has conducted replicated performance trials on both advanced matted row and a regional adaptation of annual hill plasticulture. Both of these systems were managed without methyl bromide fumigation or fungicide application. Data from these trials were used to compare advanced matted row and plasticulture for yield, fruit quality and harvest season. Yield for the two systems was genotype dependent, and the advanced matted row system had later production and slightly lower fruit quality.

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Larvae of several insects injure and kill strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duchesne) plants by burrowing into and hollowing out plant crowns. Occasionally, these infestations are serious enough to cause heavy economic losses to fruit producers and nursery plant growers. In 1997 in Beltsville, Md., we observed wilting and dying mature plants and unrooted runner plants in two experimental strawberry plantings. Injury by larvae was extensive; large cavities occurred in crowns, and the central pith tissues were removed from stolons and leaf petioles. Often, insect frass was seen at entrance holes. Larvae removed from hollowed-out parts of injured plants were identified as the European corn borer (Ostrinia nubilalis Hübner) in their fifth instar stage. Their presence in this instance also was associated with a cover crop of millet [Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv., `German Strain R'] planted between the strawberry rows for weed suppression. This is the first published report of the European corn borer attacking strawberry. Although this insect may occur only sporadically in strawberry plantings, it may become important in the future. Growers and other professionals should become aware of this new strawberry pest and recognize that its management in strawberry will be different from management of other crown-boring insects.

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