Strawberry virus threatens future of N.S. industry
Disease spread from Nova Scotia to Florida after infected plants exported
Strawberry growers in Nova Scotia are waiting for laboratory test results that could determine whether they have a future in the industry.
A lab in British Columbia is testing plants for a pair of viruses found in Nova Scotia that devastated crops in both Canada and the United States last year. Approximately half of Nova Scotia’s plants were destroyed in the early crop this summer.
The viruses are spread by an aphid, which went undetected by a provincial government certification program.
The problem was spread to Florida, when Nova Scotia nursery growers sent plants for farmers in the state to grow during the winter. Some fields experienced a 90 per cent collapse.
Ted Campbell, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, said diseased plants from Nova Scotia caused millions of dollars in damage in the sunshine state.
Last year, Charles Keddy shipped 20 million strawberry plants from his Annapolis Valley farm to berry growers across Canada and the United States.
There was no virus reported in his plants, but despite that, this year orders for his fall export crop are down.
"We certainly have reduced orders for this year because the customers in Florida are on edge," he said.
Keddy said he’s taken every possible measure to protect his fields from the viruses. Even though his fields remain healthy, Keddy said the testing underway will determine his livelihood.
"If they come back in a negative way, I would not be able to ship plants," he said.
The test results are expected within the next week.
Keddy said in the meantime, the provincial government has not done enough to help farmers devastated by the virus. He said the government should have helped plow down infected fields. Keddy believes some infected fields that should have been plowed down continue to be a home for the disease.
In August, the Nova Scotia government announced it would provide up to $2 million in loans to help farmers. Some farmers were critical of the announcement, saying that was far to little to make a difference.
With files from Rob North.