Priority 1: Increase the production season and regional diversity of U.S. strawberry production
Sustainable strawberry production for Mississippi and surrounding markets
- William Evans, Mississippi State University, Truck Crops Branch
- Gilbert Thompson, Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Dept. Natural Resources
- James Keller, Peaceful Valley Farm
- Juan Carlos Diaz-Perez, University of Georgia, Coastal Plain Experiment Station
The objectives of the project were to 1) determine if commercial quality strawberries can be produced for the wholesale market under Mississippi growing conditions using modern production techniques; and 2) develop a core group of growers and educators to support the development of a strawberry production industry in Mississippi. Four cultivar trials were implemented: a replicated organic trial in north Mississippi, a conventional production trial in on the lands of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, an observational trial at Mississippi State Truck Crops Branch, and a training trial for 4-H students in Jackson. The trials generated valuable yield data and demonstrated several key elements of crop management. Fruit from the organic trial was processed to study postharvest quality traits. This data will help growers determine which cultivars ship and store best when grown under Mississippi conditions. The project team also organized a strawberry short course, led several tours, and hosted individual meetings.
Project Outputs and Impacts
The organic trial at Native Son Farm in North Mississippi revealed significant differences in yield among cultivars, but demonstrated that a well-managed plot of organic strawberries can yield well under state growing conditions. Analysis of post-harvest fruit quality data is underway at the University of Georgia. The project team worked with members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians on plasticulture techniques to improve crop performance. This is the first use of plastic mulch for an annual crop on the tribal lands. The relationships forged will continue as Choctaw farmers collaborate with a follow-up strawberry study in 2015. The project team introduced 30 high school students in Jackson to strawberry production through a project with the Dr. George Washington Carver Future Scientists 4-H Club and also met with students at the Choctaw reservation. The Strawberry Production Short Course reached 30 people with measurable results in knowledge gained. The project team provided tweets and web content about strawberry production that will remain accessible beyond the project dates. In total, the project reached 20 farmers, 30 extension agents, 50 students, 50 researchers, 20 administrators and 200 consumers. Eight acres of strawberries in the state are under new or improved production management because of this project.
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