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Shining a Light on How to Save Strawberries

Have you ever opened a package of ripe red strawberries only to see the fruits spoiled by gray fuzz?

Gray mold and other fungal pathogens, like powdery mildew and anthracnose, are big postharvest problems that are traditionally solved by applying fungicides to fruits. For organic producers, however, these chemicals are not an option. 

Luckily, ARS scientists with the Appalachian Fruit Research Station have developed a special ultraviolet-C irradiation (UV-C) technique that may keep strawberries mold-free without chemical fungicides. The researchers found that adding a period of darkness following UV-C irradiation was crucial to boosting UV-C’s original pathogen-killing power without damaging the leaves, flowers, or fruit of a strawberry plant.  Additionally, the scientists discovered that the treatment was effective against spider mite infestations as well, indicating an opportunity to also reduce pesticide use.