04/11/13 — Strawberry woes will be a 'minor event,' experts say

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Strawberry woes will be a 'minor event,' experts say

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 11, 2013 1:46 PM

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Harold Edwards checks his strawberry plants at Elroy Farms. With the arrival of warm weather, strawberry growers are looking at their crop beginning to ripen within the next few days.

Wayne County's small strawberry crop, only about 15 acres, isn't expected to suffer significant or widespread problems as the result of virus-infected stock bought from nurseries in Canada.

"But those who are affected will see it as one," said Wayne County Extension Director Kevin Johnson.

It will be, he said, a "minor event."

"I won't say that it is overblown," he said. "If it is my crop I would be very upset. But in the whole scope of North Carolina it is going to be small. Overall it is not going to be a big economic loss, but for an individual (farmer) it can be.''

Locally, strawberries should be ready by the end of the month or the first of May.

Johnson said he did not know how much of the crop would be affected, but that he knows of at least one grower who could be.

"He told me they (plants) were really tiny and they came from that farm in Canada," Johnson said. "The plants are about one-half the size they usually are."

The virus stunts the plants' growth so they are smaller and can't support as many berries, he said. He will have a crop, but it won't be what he is used to having.

"I am not sure if the berries are smaller or if they are regular size, but the plants can't support them. It is hard to say at this point (the effect). We just don't know how it is going to affect production."

Johnson expects that the infected plants could be more of an issue in areas west of Wayne County where strawberries are a larger crop. But even then it should be minor, he said.

"We know that the berries are safe," he said. "Our citizens can still go out and get a good quality of strawberries."