Priority 1: Increase the production season and regional diversity of U.S. strawberry production

Development and adoption of annual, plasticulture strawberry production in the Great Plains


Project LeaderRivard project photo 1

  • Cary Rivard, Kansas State University, Department of Horticulture, Forestry and Recreation Resources

Project Collaborators

  • Frank and Melanie Gieringer, Gieringer's Orchard
  • Jerry and Jane Wohletz, Wohletz Farm Fresh

Project Summary

Local production of strawberries in the Great Plains is limited due to poor performance of “traditional” perennial production systems. The annual plasticulture system has been widely adopted with great success in the southeastern U.S. and shows potential in Kansas, but colder winter temperatures create challenges for adoption in the Great Plains. This project investigated the proper application timing and thickness of row cover to best protect strawberries from winter injury, in addition to disseminating information on this annual production system to Great Plains growers. The project also investigated a spring-planted production system using day-neutral strawberries grown in high tunnels for an extended harvest season. Objectives of the project were to 1) verify the utility of annual plasticulture strawberry production for the Great Plains; 2) determine the optimum application timing and thickness of row covers for open-field annual strawberry plasticulture systems; 3) identify the relationship between winter injury and crop performance and determine how row covers affect the soil and canopy microclimate; 4) investigate the utility of spring-planted annual strawberry production in high tunnels and identify varieties that perform optimally in the Great Plains; 5) determine how evaporative cooling affects crop performance and disease incidence in high tunnel strawberries; and 6) disseminate crop production information to growers.

 RivardPhoto02_Harvesting-Variety-Trials-in-High-TunnelProject Outputs and Impacts

This project increased awareness and knowledge of the annual plasticulture strawberry production system among Great Plains growers through publications, dissemination of research findings, twilight farm tours and presentations at grower conferences. Eight commercial growers, most of whom plan to continue growing strawberries, received one-on-one consulting from the project team to assist with their first strawberry plantings. Two on-farm research trials that investigated the timing and thickness of row cover for winter protection of strawberries in an annual production system were successfully conducted. This research generated concrete recommendations used to inform more than 550 growers and 40 extension agents with best practices for winter strawberry protection in the Great Plains. The project also investigated spring-planted annual strawberries in high tunnels, which was shown to be a very productive system that could offer high tunnel growers in the Great Plains the opportunity to diversify away from tomatoes for crop rotation. In order to further disseminate information and research findings, six videos outlining strawberry production for the Great Plains were created for distribution through the KSU Research & Extension Channel.  

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