Silicon builds resilience in strawberry plants against both strawberry powdery mildew Podosphaera aphanis and two-spotted spider mites Tetranychus urticae
Silicon is found in all plants and the accumulation of silicon can improve plant tolerance to biotic stress. Strawberry powdery mildew (Podosphaera aphanis) and two-spotted spider mite (Tetranychus urticae) are both detrimental to strawberry production worldwide. Two field trials were done on a UK commercial strawberry farm in 2014 and 2015, to assess the effects of silicon nutrient applied via the fertigation system on P. aphanisand T. urticae. The silicon treatments decreased the severity of both P. aphanis and T. urticae in two consecutive years on different cultivars. The percentage leaf area infected with P. aphanis mycelium from silicon treated plants were 2.19 (in 2014) and 0.41 (in 2015) compared with 3.08 (in 2014) and 0.57 (in 2015) from the untreated plants. The etiology of the pathogen as measured by the Area Under the Disease Progress Curve from silicon (with and without fungicides) treatments was 152.7 compared with 217.5 from non-silicon (with and without fungicides) treatments for the overall period of 2014-2015. The average numbers of T. urticae recorded on strawberry leaves were 1.43 (in 2014) and 1.83 (in 2015) in plants treated with silicon compared with 8.82 (in 2014) and 6.69 (in 2015) in untreated plants. The silicon contents of the leaves from the silicon alone treatment were 26.8 μg mg-1 (in 2014) and 22.2 μg mg-1 (in 2015) compared with 19.7 μg mg-1 (in 2014) and 21.4 μg mg-1 (in 2015) from the untreated. The silicon nutrient root application contributed to improved plant resilience against P. aphanis and T. urticae. Silicon could play an important role in broad spectrum control of pests and diseases in commercial strawberry production.