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Cal Poly scientists work to find alternative soil treatment for growing strawberries

Jay Thompson - Cal Poly

A large research project aimed at finding better ways to grow strawberries has some of those test berries showing up in the produce departments at local stores.

The Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center at Cal Poly is working on alternatives to the previous industry standard for soil fumigation called methyl bromide. The chemical is being phased out in California, so Central Coast berry growers are looking for viable alternatives, including the option of using no fumigants at all.

Gerald Holmes is the Center's director and says this is the largest project of its kind.

"We've dabbled with strawberries, a bed or two I think here and there, over the years, but nothing on this scale," said Holmes. "We're using all of the standard techniques that are being used in the Santa Maria area, so it's the first time it's really being done on a commercial scale."

The test strawberries were planted back in November and harvest began last week.

You'll find the berries for sale on campus and at Von's Supermarkets in San Luis Obispo.