A fungus known as pestalotiopsis, causes berries, leaves and roots to rot and turn brown and is bound to reduce total Florida strawberry shipments this season. By how much is not yet known.
A warm, wet winter allowed the fungus to take hold in December. It is spread by water and Florida had a lot of rain December. Warm weather also helps the fungus spread.
Florida ranks second to California in domestic strawberry shipments and plays an important role in strawberry volume during the winter months. Most of Florida’s 10,000 acres of strawberry farms are in Hillsborough County to the east of Tampa and Manatee County to the south.
The current outbreak of the fungus affected about 25 percent of the state’s strawberry fields and about half of the strawberries are grown organically,
One of the growers affected was Wish Farms of Plant City, FL who reported a loss of about 80 acres of organic strawberries. While it was described as a setback the company emphasized it was not a knockout punch and conditions were improving.
Florida strawberries – grossing about $2000 to Chicago.