Prepare for the Growing Season: Think Sanitation!

In preparation for this year growing season, remember that sanitation is critical to prevent plant diseases. Regardless if you are greenhouse grower or a home gardener it is important to revisit your sanitation practices.

Proper sanitation can reduce pathogen inoculum, or “seeds” of the pathogen. Frequently remove debris and weed in the greenhouse and the field. Weeds can serve as alternate hosts for diseases and insects becoming the bridge between two growing seasons.  Disinfecting tools, cleaning boots and any other equipment can prevent the introduction of pathogens into a clean system. 

Plant material can carry diseases and insect pests, introducing them to clean greenhouse facilities, gardens or fields.  Always inspect plant material. Commercial growers: inspect material prior to its entry to the greenhouse and prior to planting in the field.  Home gardeners: pay close attention to your transplants regardless if you grow or purchase them.  Plant only disease free plants.

After transplanting, scout often and thoroughly to identify problems as early as possible.  Watch carefully the amount and frequency of watering events in the greenhouse.  Provide enough water and nutrients to the plants while minimizing unnecessary humidity. Always remember that plant pathogens thrive in humid environments.  If you have a sample to submit to the diagnostic lab we are happy to help! See our guidelines for how to submit a sample and remember to give as much information as possible on the submission form.

Recently in the clinic we received a strawberry sample with a mixture of strawberry leaf spot and strawberry leaf scorch. The patch was not renovated last year and therefore the pathogens were not only present in the field but were present in high numbers, this resulted in early onset of these diseases.  Strawberry renovation after harvest removes most of the inoculum and delays the appearance of these diseases on the following year.

For more on strawberry renovation and production check out the following resources:

Renovation of June-bearing Strawberries by Richard Jauron, ISU Department of Horticulture

Strawberry Renovation by Sonia Schloemann, Small Fruit Specialist, and A. Richard Bonanno, Horticulturalist, University of Massachusetts Extension, Amherst. MA

Production Guide for Commercial Strawberries Prepared by Paul Domoto, ISU extension horticulturist; Mark Gleason, ISU plant pathologist; and Donald Lewis, ISU entomologist.

Links to this article are strongly encouraged, and this article may be republished without further permission if published as written and if credit is given to the author, Yard and Garden, and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. If this article is to be used in any other manner, permission from the author is required. This article was originally published on April 24, 2015. The information contained within may not be the most current and accurate depending on when it is accessed.