Reducing fungal fruit rot is a priority in strawberry production in the UK as annual economic losses due to fungal rotting is approximately £30 to £60M per annum. Fruit rotting on strawberries is mainly caused by Botrytis cinerea, Mucor spp. and Rhizopus spp. with the relative prevalence varying over time and the growing site. Most strawberry production is under protection where the risk of fungal rot largely depends on the occurrence of the pathogen and the availability of susceptible tissues.
The current research project being carried out by researchers at the Warwickshire College Group, is developing multiplex diagnostic tests for the onsite quantification of inoculum levels of the three fungal pathogens that cause strawberry fruit rotting.
Development of rapid systems for sample processing and accurate estimation of the presence of each rot is a key output of the research. This will inform the prediction of the storability of batches of strawberries and will potentially reduce postharvest losses. Accurate risk prediction, and hence effective control of fruit rotting, is hampered by the difficulties in accurate and fast quantification of inoculum availability.
This project has developed a diagnostic device for semi-automatic quantification of multiple airborne strawberry pathogens. The device has been used to establish the relationship of both pre- and post-harvest rot risks and inoculum level. This will extend the marketable shelf life of individual strawberry lots and reduce fruit waste.