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Some strawberry farms struggling

By Ellen Bacca
Published On: May 02 2013 05:25:47 PM CDT
Eastern Carolina -

Some farmers in eastern Carolina have so many strawberries, they are practically giving them away. Others tell NewsChannel 12, their fields are almost wiped out.

Area Commercial Horticultural Agent Nicole Sanchez says about ten to fifteen farmers in the area are seeing reduced strawberry crop yields.

Butch White, owner of White's Farm just outside of Vanceboro in Craven County is one of the farms affected. He says the berries are good, there are just not as many as usual.

"In 26 years I've never had to close the field down and I've already closed it down four to five times this year to let the berries ripen up and catch up to everything," said White.

Strawberry Specialists say all the faulty plants are being traced back to nurseries in Canada. Local farmers frequently buy their seedlings from Canadian nurseries. Specialists say this is the first time this particular problem has occurred in North Carolina.

The bad batch of seedlings have two viruses. The first is called 'Strawberry Mild Yellow Virus'. The second is 'Strawberry Mottle Virus', says specialists.

These viruses alone would most likely go unnoticed in the plants. However, it is the combination of the two that causes the stunted growth. Specialists say most strawberry plants contain viruses. They usually go unnoticed. They also say none of these viruses are harmful. They don't change the size, shape, taste or nutrition of the berries. But the combination of the two viruses are what has caused stunted plant growth in some of the crops.

The impact has varied from farm to farm.

"I'm fortunate. Some of the places I'm in better shape than they are, and there are some growers that are in a lot better shape than I am," said White.

Most farmers still have enough berries to keep their fields open for U-picking. Sanchez says many affected farms will not pay laborers to package and ship berries, however, to save on cost.