Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Agriculture - Crop Science


Horticulture and Crop Science


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Ashraf Tubeileh

Advisor Department

Horticulture and Crop Science

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Studies on plant growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) and fungi (PGPF) as biostimulants have shown significant positive effects on plant health, fruit yield, or pest management. However, very few published studies to date have been specific regarding their effects on strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa), particularly on soilborne disease prevalence in organically grown strawberries. Empirical data on the results of using these products in commercial growing applications under various conditions would be highly valuable, especially for organic growers who have limited synthetic chemical pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers registered for use. The objective of this study is to evaluate the efficacy of biostimulant supplementation on strawberries for improving fruit yield, fruit quality, and plant health in both high-tunnel, open-sided ‘hoophouse’ and field conditions.

This study consisted of two research projects. The first project investigated the effects of commercially available PGPR-based biostimulant products on strawberry plant health. The three products contained differing proprietary combinations of PGPR, primarily from the Bacillus and Lactobacillus genera. Plants were grown in two different soil types: sandy and clay, in order to investigate the effects of biostimulant supplementation in different soil conditions. In fall of 2018, 160 ‘Monterey’ strawberry plants were grown in an outdoor hoophouse in 3-gallon pots. Plants were either treated monthly with a single bacterial biostimulant product (EM-1, Accomplish LM, or Armory), or left untreated as a control. Plants were grouped into 20 blocks, each block comprised of 8 plants (each of the four treatments replicated in both soil types). Fruit yield (g), fruit sugar content (Brix), and leaf SPAD absorbance levels were measured weekly from January 27 to June 26, 2019. The treatments tested had no significant effects on fruit yield, leaf SPAD absorbance or Brix; soil type, however, did significantly impact fruit yield, with higher yields in sandy soil.

The second project was a field trial beginning in spring of 2020, in collaboration with Rutiz Farms in Arroyo Grande, CA, involving a total of 480 ‘Chandler’ strawberry plants. The farm is organically managed and has a history of soilborne diseases, including Verticillium dahliae. These plants were either treated monthly with one of three microbial biostimulant products: a product containing a proprietary strain of Trichoderma harzianum biocontrol fungus (TrichoSym), and two of the same PGPR-based products used the previous year (Accomplish LM and Armory); or left untreated as a control. The experiment was laid out in a randomized complete block design with four blocks, with each block consisting of 4 plots for each of the 4 treatments; each plot contained 30 plants. Fruit yield (g) per plot was measured weekly throughout the 2020 growing season and phenotypic disease incidence was measured biweekly. Soil samples were taken at three different points throughout the season, cultured on selective media, and analyzed to obtain estimates of V. dahliae colony-forming units (CFU) per gram soil. The treatments tested had no significant effect on fruit yield, phenotypic disease incidence, or V. dahliae CFU/g soil. The results are inconclusive as to whether this lack of effect is due to viability of the products themselves, ineffective application techniques resulting in lack of rhizosphere colonization, or some combination of these. Further research is needed to determine whether or not supplementation with microbial biostimulants can produce reliable, beneficial results in strawberries.

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