North Carolina is the nation’s No. 3 strawberry producer, but many of the state’s berries grow on small plots lacking the acreage to carry out sustainable growing practices like crop rotation. That, combined with constant concerns about soil pathogens and reliance on chemicals to rid plants of ubiquitous pests like spider mites, puts immense pressure on these farms’ long-term health.
Can North Carolina withstand this pressure and keep its top-three status behind fruit and veggie behemoths California and Florida, the top two U.S. strawberry producers?
N.C. State crop science Ph.D. student Amanda McWhirt is working with fellow university agroecologists, horticulture scientists and entomologists on a National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative research project to implement sustainable soil methods on strawberry farms – methods that won’t blow a hole in farmers’ budgets or overcomplicate their lives.