When it comes to growing strawberries, Farm Fuel, Inc., a Watsonville, California-based company, is on the cutting edge.
The company grows wild and domesticated mustard and lightly processes the harvest into mustard meal, a soil amendment. They also work with farmers on a technique called Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation (ASD). This precise farming technique involves applying a combination of water and carbon-rich material (think rice bran, grape pomace, mustard meal, and molasses), and then wrapping the soil in plastic. Under the plastic, the ingredients combine to create anaerobic conditions.
The idea with both of these approaches is to kill the organisms that cause the long list of diseases that plague strawberry farmers–without pesticides or fumigants (a form of pesticide that treats the soil before anything is even planted). Why the search for alternatives?
“As pesticide use becomes more restricted, growers have a greater need for solutions that are effective and affordable,” says Farm Fuel CEO and research director Stefanie Bourcier, who has received sizable grants to work with both organic and conventional farmers on these non-toxic techniques. “Ultimately, ASD and mustard meal offer both organic and conventional growers more options.”