What Causes Mushy Strawberries? Identifying and Preventing Fruit Rot
How to Avoid Mushy Strawberries
Strawberries are among the fruits most often grown in home gardens. Providing general care like full sun, well-drained soil, organic matter, and a weekly inch of water produces the greatest and healthiest yield. Preventive care should also be practiced.
It's important to know what to do but also what not to do when cultivating strawberries. Additionally, when you shop for strawberries, inspect your fruit carefully and know the signs of diseased fruit.
Fruit Rot Identification and Prevention
Verticillium wilt is a serious fungal disease of the soil that occurs if strawberries are planted near other plants known to harbor the disease. Common plants that harbor the disease include eggplants, potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers.
Prevention Tip: Be careful where you plant.
Strawberry Gray Mold
Strawberry gray mold is caused by the Botrytis cinerea fungus and is the most serious and common form of strawberry fruit rot. The disease can reduce your yield by 50 percent or more. The mold flourishes during long periods of rain and overcast conditions during bloom time and harvest. Strawberry infections generally appear on the fruit as a light-brown patch that quickly enlarges and decays. With moist conditions, the fluffy fungal growth is visible on the infected tissue. The gray-brown color gives the disease its name.
Prevention Tip: Better air flow and improved sunlight penetration will help reduce the possibility of gray mold. This is readily achieved by thinning out the strawberry beds. During the winter, dead leaves and debris should be removed from the beds to reduce possible sources of fungus.
Anthracnose Fruit Rot
Anthracnose fruit rot, caused by Colletotrichum acutatum, is a destructive disease affecting California cultivars if they grow on black plastic. The practice, most destructive during warm weather, can cause between 60 to 75 percent of fruit loss. Anthracnose fruit rot appears on green strawberries and ranges in appearance from soft to firm brown or black spots. On ripe fruit, the disease appears as purple spots and enlarges quickly until the whole strawberry rots. Pink lesions on the surface can turn to masses of orange spores. Spores are dispersed to other fruit in splashing water. You may think this is a convenient way to prevent weeds but it should be entirely avoided.
Prevention Tip: Do not use black plastic for weed control.
Leak Fruit Rot
Leak (Rhizopus nigricans) was once a common and destructive form of fruit rot occurring after harvest. Commercial strawberries are now refrigerated during shipping which helps prevent the problem. Fruits affected by the fungi show no changes at first and remain the same color. Later, the affected sections turn light brown and the strawberry becomes soft and watery. The strawberry then collapses and leaks fluid, which is why the disease is called Leak. Rotten strawberries, especially those that are packaged, will soon become covered with a white, cottony fungus and black spore-producing structures. The fungus will only enter ripe fruit through a wound. If you see this white, cottony fungus when shopping for strawberries, they are already contaminated and simply washing them at home won't prevent Leak.
Prevention Tip: Carefully select commercially grown strawberries.
Leather Fruit Rot
Leather rot (Phytophthora cactorum) happens occasionally on both green fruit and ripe fruit. Rotten strawberries will be light brown in the middle and have shades of purple on the edges. Late stages of decay will make the fruit leathery and tough. Sometimes, you cannot tell if the purchased fruit is diseased until you take a bite.
Prevention Tip: Avoid eating tough strawberries.
When all goes well, there is nothing like a perfect strawberry!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
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