Fighting pests without chemicals
As strawberry season kicks off in Sweden, some researchers are working on alternative methods for keeping bugs away from the berries without using pesticides.
There is a farm in southern Sweden - outside of Skänninge - where the Swedish Board of Agriculture has several rows of strawberries for research. Mites are crawling around in the strawberry patches, but scientists are working on fighting the pests without using pesticides.
Calle Hogstadius raises strawberries in the test area and thinks the project is a good idea.
"Our hands are tied a little. Because the money in growing disappears if we don't use pesticides. So, we're forced to use them. But clearly, the less pesticide we use, the better. It's a bumpy ride – using and handling pesticides," he tells Swedish Radio news P4 Östergötland.
The Board, along with growers, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, and the Federation of Swedish Farmers are working on testing out new methods for raising berries without chemicals. Test patches are in Östergötland, Vällinge, and near Kristianstad.
The leader of the research, Birgitta Svensson, stands in Hogstadius's strawberry patch, where she's just emptied a trap of weevils.
"In this trap, there's a fragrance on a wad of material under the lid," she says, pointing it out.
There are also traps aimed at other pests around the patch.
"The goal in developing integrated pest management is to reduce the use of chemical pesticides," says Svensson, adding that in order to make the right decisions about what to do when, farmers need good tools.
A weather station that gives temperature and humidity readings is also being used in the research. It makes it possible to predict the risk for mold even as the plants are flowering and help farmers decide whether or not to use chemicals.