Fungicides Enhance the Economic Viability of Southeast Asian Refugee Farmers in California

Local Food

Roadside Stand

Most of the 95 strawberry farm stands in and around the Sacramento region are owned and operated by Mien and Hmong refugees from Laos, a small country in Southeast Asia that neighbors Vietnam. When the U.S. left Southeast Asia in 1975, hundreds of thousands of Hmong and Mien fled to the U.S. Most of the refugees were farmers in Laos and turned to farming in the U.S. Most growers lease small plots of land and grow strawberries for sale. A group of University of California researchers received a USDA grant to work with these refugee farmers. It became apparent that fungicide use is a critical element in improving the economic viability of the refugee farmers.

“Sacramento County Southeast Asian strawberry growers are very limited-resource growers who sell almost strictly at their roadside stands. UC Cooperative Extension has been working with these growers for 14 years and holding an annual meeting every March. This year’s meeting was held on March 24, 2010, and was supported by the California Strawberry Commission… A total of 52 growers attended the meeting, including several from nearby counties. In 2009-10, we received funding from the USDA to work with Sacramento County growers on food safety education, pest and nutrient management education, variety trials and market expansion.

Two of the most challenging and consistent pest problems facing Southeast Asian strawberry growers are spider mites and fruit rot… Fungicides are rarely used, and botrytis fruit rot caused by pre-Mother’s Day 2009 rains decimated all growers’ crops just before the busiest time of year. A leading grower did spray fungicide and estimated that he saved 50% of his crop.

Four treatments were compared to evaluate their effectiveness in reducing fruit rot, as well as their effects on yield.

The amount of rot per plant in the tunnel and fungicide treatments was significantly less than that of the untreated control.”

Author: Ingels, C.
Affiliation: UC Cooperative Extension
Title: Spider mite and botrytis rot trials
Source: California Strawberry Commission Annual Production Research Report. 2009-2010 Research Projects. Pgs. 99-103

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