This week will mark the 10th week since planting of our organic, Day-Neutral strawberry field trial at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station (WMARS). Our field consists of 16, 60’ double planted rows of Cabrillo strawberries with four different film-based mulches: polyethylene white, black, and metallic, and a biodegradable paper mulch.
The field was established from dormant strawberry transplants in late May, as a day-neutral cultivar the plants began producing flowers simultaneously with leaf and canopy development. To encourage a healthy root system and canopy, the first flush of flowers and runners should be removed to allow the plants to establish properly before the first berries are produced.
As plants develop more leaves and canopy coverage, irrigation needs become more frequent. We monitor soil moisture using a conductivity based tensiometer under the mulch at depths of 4 and 12 inches to determine irrigation timing, with irrigation occurring once soil moisture levels drops below -30kPa, or about 2.5 irrigation events per week. Fertilizer (we use a hydrolyzed fish and kelp emulsion) is injected into the irrigation lines once per week at a rate of 5lbs N/acre, which is based on the type of soil at the research station that has relatively high organic matter, locations with lighter or sandier textured soils and low fertility might need a higher rate of N fertilization. Heat damage has been noted on developing leaves and fruit when temperatures climb above 90º F for prolonged periods. Heat damage in our field has manifested as necrotic margins on new, folded leaves and as russeting on ripening fruit.
Harvest began the third week of July but we expect our first substantial harvest by the 1st week of August. Across our mulch treatments, the reflective white and metallic mulches are seeing earlier fruit development than the black and paper mulch. Flowers are abundant in the field, attracting a variety of pollinators including mostly small green bees, small black bees, flower flies (family Syrphidae), and to a lesser degree, the Common Eastern Bumblebee, Bombus impatiens. Japanese beetles are present, though not significantly damaging the crop. With an increased number of flowers and unripe fruit, we are seeing high numbers of Tarnished Plant Bug, an economically significant pest of strawberries whose numbers increase later in summer. Diseases have been limited to strawberry leaf spot, a fungal disease mostly aesthetic in scope and of no concern for fruit quality.
This project is funded by USDA-NIFA Transitions Grant.This article was posted in Berries and tagged Amaya Atucha, DNS, DNS Organic, Jarret Miles-Kroening, Organic Day-Neutral Strawberry Production, organic strawberries, Strawberries.