With the rise of organic gardening, pesticides are becoming less and less popular.
For strawberry growers, this trend is a good one. Strawberries routinely make the annual “Dirty Dozen” list of fruits and vegetables that are most contaminated with chemicals, insecticides, or other toxins. Few people would voluntarily eat pesticides.
Interestingly enough, the tarnished plant bug is rather resilient.
These insects indirectly halt the grown of strawberries causing them to be worthless and inedible. While in the nymph stage, they will inject a toxin into a strawberry. The toxin shuts down strawberry growth from the site of injection down to the tip of the strawberry.
The resultant deformed fruit is called a “nubbin” or “button berry” and has a tip that is quite full of brown, undeveloped seeds that stopped developing once the toxin was injected.
For the strawberry grower, a Mmalformed strawberry or two can mean a loss. Caring and tending strawberries for many, long hours can be disappointing with this kind of result.
In the strawberry farming business, a bountiful harvest, of course, means good income.
Anything that poses a threat to the harvest is a burden to the gardener. There are many agents that can cause a strawberry harvest to consist of strawberries that have significant deformations or damage. The most common causes are:
- The tarnished plant bug. While these insects are in their nymph phase, a toxin is injected into new fruit. Once injected, the berry ceases to properly develop or growing below the injection site, causing a half-formed strawberry with a dense pack of non-viable brown non-viable seeds at the tip, which is unpleasant and completely useless for the future growing of seeds.
- Mites. An infestation of different kinds of mites will cause severe damage in strawberries. Scarred and fissured strawberries are likely the result of feeding by some sundry insects.
- Pollination problems. Inadequate pollination can result in small, malformed fruit. Extremely high temperatures can seriously affect strawberry formation because of the heat’s effects on pollen. With temperatures that are extremely high, the pollen itself is devitalized. This causes poor pollination.
Research is currently underway to isolate an actual fungus that will infect and kill these bugs. However, it is unlikely that such a remedy will be developed any time soon. To mitigate the chance that your strawberry patch will be infested, two things can be done.
First, avoid mowing alfalfa anywhere near your strawberry plants while the strawberry plants are blooming. Tarnished plant bugs thrive in alfalfa, and destroying their home will cause them to seek a new home (in your garden).
The second is to sprinkle diatomaceous earth in and around your garden. While not completely effective against the tarnished plant bug, it does serve to make your garden less inviting.