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Hot water to combat strawberry runners

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Photo: Siri Elise Dybdal 

Strawberry plants have runners that quickly fill the fields and provide favorable conditions for fungus if not removed. Reglone is an effective herbicide against runners, but it is no longer approved in the EU and Norway. Now researchers are looking into whether hot water could be an alternative.

The crop protection product Reglone is a contact herbicide that “burns” off the part of the plant it comes into contact with. In 2020, the EU banned diquat – one of the active ingredients in Reglone. This presents a challenge to strawberry growers.

If the runners are not removed, a strawberry field will turn from neat rows into a carpet of vegetation. This provides favorable conditions for gray mold and other fungal diseases. It also makes it very difficult to navigate the field.

As part of the SOLUTIONS project, researchers will investigate new, practical solutions for removing runners and controlling weeds in strawberries grown outdoors.

“This year we set up an experiment in newly established fields with double rows in Ridabu in Hamar. We use hot water to both burn the runners and kill off vegetation in the double rows and paths,” says Wiktoria Kaczmarek-Derda, researcher at NIBIO.

The researchers are studying the effects of repeated treatments with hot water in combination with mechanical row cleaning. This is compared with chemical spraying, including new unapproved agents in cultivated strawberry crops.

With the hot water treatment, they are testing how close they can get the boiling water to newly planted strawberry plants and what quantities of water can be used without harming the cultivated plants.

The researchers are also looking at how effective the treatment is when different quantities of water are used. This will help to identify the right dose for treating weeds and runners in newly established strawberry fields.