Phytophthora, on the other hand, is a soil-borne pathogen and is currently managed with a fungicide called Ridomil Gold. However, growers have noticed early signs of Phytophthora resistance to Ridomil Gold, so Louws’ team will study the pathogen itself to learn more about its biology.

Understanding how the pathogen develops and reproduces may help researchers figure out what can control it.

“It’s about knowing your enemy,” says Louws. “The more we learn about the biology of the pathogen and how it interacts with the environment and other plants, the better we’ll be able to manage the disease.”

With the help of North Carolina State plant breeder Jeremy Pattison, the team also hopes to breed new strawberry plants that are resistant to the disease. Two of the most popular plant varieties, Chandler and Camarosa, are very susceptible to some of the major fungal pathogens, including anthracnose and Phytophthora.

The Regional IPM grant program funds multi-state research and extension projects in each of four regions of the U.S. The Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture provides the grant program.

While the research will take place in North Carolina and Virginia, Louws is confident that resulting recommendations will be useful to strawberry growers in several other states.

“We feel that this project will have a wide regional impact,” Louws says. “Whatever we recommend will be used in the Southeast and throughout the eastern seaboard.”