Twice a week, in the middle of the night, a team of scientists and researchers from the University of Florida shine ultraviolet light on a field of strawberries. The technique isn't necessarily to help the plants produce more or larger berries but rather to kill the eggs of twospotted spider mites that can lead to fruit loss for the crop, which has an annual worth of just under $400 million in the state and accounts for 10% of the country's strawberry value overall.
"Since very few miticides (sprays) are currently effective in suppressing twospotted spider mites in strawberries, the use of UV light provides an effective physical control method that can be used in fields and in high-tunnel strawberry production systems," study lead Sriyanka Lahiri, assistant professor of entomology at the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences' Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, said in a news release regarding the research. "If left unmanaged, this pest will feed voraciously on leaves and cover the plant with webbing, causing tremendous fruit loss."
In addition to killing the eggs without reducing the number of strawberries produced, the lights do not deposit any damaging residues on the plants, making it another viable tool in farmers' arsenals to combat pests and disease, the researchers said.