Strawberry grower hoping for normal season following last year’s virus devastation

Harry Sullivan
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GREAT VILLAGE – Precautions taken last year should ensure that local strawberry growers are not once again plagued with a virus that destroyed their crops, an area farmer says.

Great Village grower Curtis Millen hopes the precautions taken to last year’s strawberry crops will yield a ‘normal’ season this year. Last spring, a combination of the mottled and yellow edge virus devastated local strawberry crops. 

“I think we’ve got a normal crop,” said Great Village grower Curtis Millen, of his prediction for this year’s strawberry outlook. “I look for a more normal season.”

Last spring, a combination of the mottled and yellow edge virus devastated local strawberry crops. Millen said he ploughed up more than 90 acres of strawberries in an effort to destroy the virus and the aphids that carry it.

Other area growers did likewise, he said, which is the only sure way of getting rid of the virus’s living tissue.

Despite the long, cold, snow-filled winter the area has seen, however, Millen said he does not believe it will have had any impact on the virus, which is why it is imperative for farmers to take matters into their own hands.

“I don’t think winter has any bearing on it. I think growers that are prepared to clean up, I think will have a clean situation,” he said. “But if growers don’t do the necessary steps to clean up, I think certainly (they) still could have problems.

And the only surefire way to do that, is to either plough up the affected crops, or burn them, he said.

“If they’ve got a lot of virus they’ve got to eradicate the plants. They’ve got to be destroyed,” he said.

“It’s only living tissue that can carry the virus. And when they re-plant new stock they’re going to have to monitor for aphids, which is the carrier of the virus.”

If close monitoring for the aphids is not carried out, he said, plants that have taken hold along a nearby tree line or that got missed on a neighbouring farm, could cause a return of the virus.

“I think in all areas it’s going to be important for them to clean up if their neighbours want to continue to grow strawberries,” he said.

The province's strawberry industry generates approximately $20 million per year.

Twitter: @tdnharry

Geographic location: Great Village

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