California data from 2015 reveal that nearly 300 pounds of pesticides were applied to each acre of strawberries (compared to about 5 pounds of pesticides per acre of corn, a crop with a notorious reputation for being pesticide laden).
About 20% are chemicals that can leave surface residues on harvested fruit. The other 80%—more than 9.3 million pounds in 2015—were fumigants, like methyl bromide. These poisonous gases are injected directly into the ground to sterilize the soil before planting. Tarps are then used to cover the soil to retain these gases, though leaks can endanger farm workers and nearby communities.
While EWG has done an excellent job bringing media attention to the possible health effects of pesticides on crops, I’d like to share an equally worrisome concern.
Fumigants and pesticides wipe out the Soil Microbiome, a thriving community of bacteria, fungi, springtails, mites, nematodes, protozoa, earthworms and other soil denizens necessary for plant health and resilience. Destroying the web of soil life has dire consequences for ecology, plant health, and human health. It severely impairs the ability of a strawberry plant to take up nutrients and produce health-promoting phytonutrients. The result? Berries that lack flavor and are devoid of nutrients!