Frequently asked questions about strawberry pests and diseases

Why are my newly planted strawberry runners growing poorly and dying?

This sounds like establishment stress syndrome, which results from new runners being immature when dug. It is more likely in runners without leaves. Poor handling of runners before, during or just after planting accentuates the problem.

My established plants are wilting and dying. Why?

If established plants start to wilt and die, it is probably due to one of the crown rot diseases, which can be identified by brown discolouration inside the crown. A less common cause is damage from white grubs chewing the roots.

I've got purple spots on my leaves. What is it and what can I do?

The purple spots are probably one of the leaf spots (eye spot, scorch or leaf blight) caused by fungus diseases. You will need to spray weekly with an appropriate registered chemical. Follow label directions and ensure that the spray properly covers the leaves. In future, start spraying a week or so after planting to protect the new leaves as they emerge.

Why are my leaves going purple?

There are three likely causes. The main one is spider mite damage, which can be confirmed by looking for fine webbing and tiny mites on the undersides of the leaves. Another cause is lethal yellows disease, which can result in an outer ring of purple leaves with small yellow leaves in the centre. Potassium and magnesium deficiencies can also produce a purpling of the outer edges of the leaves.

Why is my fruit splitting?

Rain damage is the most common cause of fruit splitting but powdery mildew disease can also cause the problem.

My fruit are going soft and rotten. What's the problem?

There are three likely causes of fruit going soft and rotten. Several fungus diseases cause fruit rots, with some producing white or grey mould on the surface. The Queensland fruit fly can also cause soft spots on fruit, though the damage is mainly confined to spring and summer when the fly is more active. The other probable cause is rain damage.

My strawberries are not colouring properly. They are pale pink or whitish, soft and awful tasting. What's wrong?

The fruit have a condition called albinism, which is generally associated with overcast weather and high nitrogen levels. Get a leaf or sap analysis done immediately to confirm the problem. Do not apply any more nitrogen fertiliser until you get the results.

What causes bumbly fruit (tucked in end, distorted shape)?

The most common cause is poor pollination due to lack of bees or wet weather, or both. Boron or calcium deficiencies, frost damage and Rutherglen bug may also cause the same symptoms.

What causes the large open 'frogmouth' at the end of the fruit?

Rapid changes in temperature are the main cause. The plant has trouble adapting to the changes and the growth is uneven, resulting in splitting and a gaping hole at the end of the fruit.

How do I stop birds eating my fruit?

If you have small backyard or hobby patches, try some form of bird netting, such as a stiff net-like shadecloth, to prevent birds getting tangled in it. When you want to pick the fruit, peel back the net to get at the plants. Netting is generally not viable for commercial patches. Additionally, birds may be beneficial by eating harmful insects and the damage may look worse than it is. However, if you believe you have a problem that needs action, contact the Department of Environment and Science Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service for advice.