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Berry Pests and Diseases

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1.    Which species is considered a berry?

When we talk about berries, we are not referring to a specific fruit. Under that name, a wide variety of plant species is collected, whose common points are the formation of berry-like fruits. These berries are generated from the ovary of a single flower, the outer layer of the ovary wall becoming the edible fleshy portion. Although they have seeds, these fruits do not have stones, and they are not surrounded by a hard shell. Traditionally these plants grow wild, although today they are cultivated on a large scale due to high demand from consumers around the world. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) the main species that belong to this group are strawberries (Fragaria spp.), raspberries (Rubus idaeus) which sometimes includes blackberries in the trade data, mulberries and loganberries (a cross between a raspberry and blackberry), gooseberries (Ribes grossularia), currants that may be of the black (Ribes nigrum), white or red (Ribes rubrum) variety and, finally, blueberries, including the European blueberry, wild blueberry, whortleberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) and  American blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum), sometimes included in the trade data are other fruits of the genus Vaccinium. In addition, there is another group named “berries nes” that include all the rest of the species like blackberry (Morus nigra), white mulberry (Morus alba), red mulberry (Morus rubra), myrtle berry (Myrtus communis) huckleberry and dangleberry (Gaylussacia spp.). In some countries, some or all of the berries listed previously are reported under a general category of “berries” not separately identified.

 

Berries fruits with damaged appearance and dangerous insects for this crop. Image: British Columbia

2.    The most common pests and diseases

2.1.  Seeds, seedlings and roots’ pests

One of the main insects that affect the root are root and vine weevils. It is a group that includes the black vine weevil (Otiorhynchus sulcatus), obscure weevil (Sciopithes obscurus), clay-colored weevil (Otiorhynchus singularis), rough strawberry root weevil (Otiorhynchus rugosostriatus), strawberry root weevil (Otiorhynchus ovatus), and green immigrant leaf weevil (Polydrusus formosus). Although larvae and adults feed on different parts of the plant, it is especially noticeable how weevil larvae or worms feed on underground roots, crowns and stems. This can weaken the plant to the point of death even in well-established plants.

Phytophthora is an extremely harmful fungus whose damage occurs when the substrate is at a low temperature and there is excess humidity. This fungus causes the roots to blacken and rot, which is lethal for berry crops. In order to avoid this damage, and that of other fungi, optimal drainage is essential.

Berry crops are suitable hosts for certain viruses. Due to their high incidence, it is worth mentioning two viruses that affect blueberries: Blueberry Scorch Virus (BIScV) and Blueberry Shock Virus (BIShV). They affect all organs in the plant, including the roots, which should be removed entirely once infected.

2.2.  Pests that will scratch, gall or suck

Pennisetia marginata, commonly known as the crown borer, occurs mainly in raspberries, loganberries and blackberries. This insect may spend two years in the larval stage, feeding on the canes of berry plants and in the plant crowns, developing galls at the base or upper root. To identify its presence in your crop, look for emergence holes that can be seen when the adult emerges. If you find them, the recommendation is to prune the plants as close to the crown as possible without leaving any stub, since there are no effective insecticides for this pest presently.

 

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There are many sap-sucking insects affecting berry plants. The presence of these insects, which feed on the lower part of the leaves, causes them to become stippled and pale. In the literature there are dozens of species described. In this article, we highlight the special damage that aphids do, affecting practically all species of berries. Other commonly described species that affect many berry crops are Bramble Leafhopper (Ribautiana tenerrima) and Rose Leafhopper (Edwardsiana rosae). In gooseberry and currant crops, the currant aphid (Cryptomyzus ribis) has been found sucking sap and in strawberry crops the lygus bug (Lygus spp.) has been identified.

 

2.3.  Fruit pests

Maintaining healthy fruit up to the point of reaching the consumer is essential to succeed in this sector. Although damage in any area of the plant, as a general rule, affects the normal development of berry fruits, agents that directly damage the fruits are of particular concern. Insects like the spotted wing drosophila (Drosophila suzukii) uses a saw-shaped egg-laying organ that allows them to cut through the thin skin of the fruits and lay eggs inside. The larvae feed within the fruit until it finally falls or decays.

The fungus Monilinia vaccinii-corymbosi deserves to be highlighted for causing the mummy berry disease. When this fungus infects the plant, it looks blackened, the fruit shrinks in size, turns grey to black, stiff and shriveled. A distinctive grey appearance is also typical in fruits when infected with Botrytis, another common fungus in these crops.

3.    Be faster than the problem

Before attempting to control any pest or disease in your berry crops, it is necessary to correctly identify the species that is causing the problem. Remember, not all the problems will be caused by an external agent; in some cases it is the soil composition, nutritional errors or environmental conditions. To prevent these challenges, SMART Fertilizer Software can provide the best fertilization plan for your crops to grow at their best. If you observe an unhealthy appearance in your plants even with a proper fertilization plan in place, do not hesitate to contact us; together we can find a more effective solution.

 

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