Strawberry Center Newsletter - Winter 2020

Winter 2020, Issue 4

Entomologist Peter Shearer works with student Gabe Worthington in the new entomology lab.

Strawberry Entomology Laboratory Now Complete

Thanks to the support of the California Strawberry Commission, the construction of the Strawberry Entomology Laboratory was completed in September. The lab, located at Technology Park on Cal Poly’s campus, is being used by faculty and students to assess samples from field studies and to conduct experiments on strawberry pests and natural enemies. Entomologist Peter Shearer is leading projects on rearing lygus bugs, spider mites and spotted wing drosophila to provide pest management solutions for the strawberry industry.


A full-scale commercial prototype of an improved Lygus Bug vacuum is tested in the field.

Cal Poly’s Automation Program Continues to Grow

The Cal Poly Strawberry Center’s automation developments include the Lygus Bug vacuum project moving into the commercialization phase after a full-scale commercial prototype underwent a two-month stress test at a local strawberry field. In addition, spray rig design parameters are being optimized to produce better coverage in collaboration with growers and the development of a rapid sprayer testing prototype. Sprayer trials encourage spray height, nozzle pressure, and type as some of the leading design parameters.

In addition, the automation program mentored two senior design groups from the BioResource and Agricultural Engineering Department on the development of an automated strawberry hoop house disassembly system. In addition, the center collaborated with the department’s robotics team on the development of an autonomous UV-C based pest management robot. The center is also nearing completion of a plastic mulch hole puncher that will fully automate many land preparation tasks.

Associate Professor Shashika Hewavitharana inspecting a fungal specimen in the plant pathology lab.

Associate Professor Shashika Hewavitharana and Team of Students Perform Disease Diagnostics for Strawberry Plants

Assistant Professor Shashika Hewavitharana, a strawberry pathologist who teaches in the Horticulture and Crop Science Department, and a team of students at the plant pathology lab performed disease diagnostics on more than 500 individual strawberry-plant samples. The team is helping growers figure out what may be ailing their plants. To send in your plant samples, please submit one of the diagnostic forms below.

English Diagnostic Form
Spanish Diagnostic Form

Senior Research Associate David Gadoury of Cornell University looks on as graduate student Michael Palmer demonstrates his method of transferring the pathogen Podosphaera aphanis from diseased fruit to healthy leaves.

UV-C Research & Collaboration

In early December, Senior Research Associate David Gadoury of Cornell University visited the Strawberry Center as part of a collaboration on the use of UV-C light to control powdery mildew. In addition to taking light intensity measurements on campus, Plant Sciences, Inc. and at Driscoll’s in Santa Maria, Gadoury visited with students, sharing his insight on the study.  Graduate student Michael Palmer, who is researching fungicide resistance in strawberry powdery mildew as the subject of his master’s thesis, met with Gadoury during his visit at Cal Poly. 


Third Annual Field Day

More than 260 people attended the Cal Poly Strawberry Center's third annual Field Day event on July 18 to learn more about the latest research and automation activities taking place at the Strawberry Center. Cal Poly students and staff discussed nine experiments focused on disease and pest management techniques and offered demonstrations on current automation projects for strawberry production. More than 30 sponsors supported the field day activities. The center offers student work experience and internships, with as many as 20 students working on various projects at any given time.



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