As all commercial strawberry growers know, overall plant health is critical for a longer-term crop, such as strawberries.

“The first months of growth are the most important for a strawberry plant,” emphasizes Katherine Walker, technical service representative, BASF. “In that time frame, you want to keep the plants as healthy as possible to maximize yield potential and profitability.”

Along with disease control, guarding strawberry plants against insect pests will keep the photosynthetic capabilities of the plant working for top yield. Spider mites are one problem that cannot be ignored.

Walker reminds growers that spider mites can be a big plant health problem. “Unlike other insects, spider mites do not harm the physical berries,” said Walker. “Spider mites feed on the leaf tissue. This damage to the leaves causes stippling and bronzing. Mite feedings during critical periods of plant growth can result in reduced berry production and yield.”

According to the University of California Davis Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program, yield loss is detectable at all levels of spider mite infestation above one mite per leaf. Spider mite damage is most detrimental during the first two to five months after transplant and can significantly reduce berry numbers. Applying a selective miticide that does not harm beneficial mites and predators, such as Nealta miticide, during this time frame helps to control an infestation before it begins.

“Having a healthy population of predatory mites in a strawberry field during this peak growth phase will minimize yield loss,” said Walker. Controlling spider mites at all life stages without impacting beneficial mites and insects is very important. Predatory mites and insects are an important tool for managing spider mites. Protecting beneficial populations in a strawberry field will aid in mite control and minimize yield loss.

Walker emphasizes that controlling spider mites can start before the strawberry plants are in the ground. Vernalization, or pre-plant chilling, increases plant vigor, which helps defend against spider mite damage. Soil fumigation, proper irrigation and reducing road dust can also help lessen the impact of a spider mite infestation, she notes.

“Managing spider mites requires an integrated approach across an operation,” said Walker. “The careful planning and effort taken to control this pest will be worthwhile when harvest happens.”