Strawberry Crown Disease Management

September 25, 2023

Strawberries are a very profitable crop when managed well.

On the other hand, they can also be a very problematic crop. Sometimes they don’t grow well in the fall. They are susceptible to many diseases. They are susceptible to winter damage.

You don’t have to let these challenges defeat you.

As with all crops, it is critical that the strawberry plants develop large and robust root systems. Many times, the root systems become jeopardized early, soon after planting, because of lack of energy and fungal activity. Strawberries prefer a fungal dominant soil and we see them responding well to SeaShield, which builds the fungal community in the soil.

Here is a photo of strawberries planted as plugs about 4 weeks ago. The plants are very well developed for their age, but what is perhaps more impressive is the root system. That is a profound root system for plants this size. In fact, I have seen roots in spring production that do not match these.

The grower is following the Keystone fall strawberry program until his first sap analysis.

When you focus on having fungal dominant soil, along with the right nutrients and energy, plants can develop aggressive root and crown development, which minimizes disease susceptibility. This is so important because once these diseases manifest themselves in the strawberry crowns, it becomes almost impossible for the roots to develop properly, because the crown becomes discolored and clogged. Thus begins the downward spiral. With “clogged filters”, it is very difficult for the plants to absorb sufficient nutrients, and even water, to maintain enough energy to give even a moderate yield.

The take-away from this is to monitor the color of the crowns and to do whatever you need to do to have it pearly white. To check the crown, dig up a plant. Observe the root structure. Use a knife to split the crown. You want it to be pearly white.

Here is a photo of a crown split open. Notice the brown crown discoloration. You want to prevent this.

If you are not satisfied with your root development and especially if you have crown discoloration, please contact us to discuss options. There are several bio-controls that we recommend if it gets to this point.

Also refer to our Strawberry Management Tips document for winter covering. Winter damage from frost can cause significant damage, providing diseases easy access into the crowns.

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Source: Melvin Fisher | Sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag LLC