Priority 4: Improving soil quality and health

Sustainable Soil Management Practices for Strawberries: Evaluation of Individual and Integrated Approaches


Project LeadersSchroeder-Moreno project photo 1

  • Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, North Carolina State University, Department of Crop Science
  • Amanda L. McWhirt, Graduate Student, North Carolina State University 

Project Collaborators

  • Debby Wechsler, North Carolina Strawberry Association
  • Gina E. Fernandez, North Carolina State University, Department of Horticultural Science
  • Yasmin Judith Cardoza, North Carolina State University, Department of Entomology
  • Hannah J. Burrack, North Carolina State University, Department of Entomology

Project Summary

Soil-borne pathogens, weeds, and nematodes can reduce strawberry yields, especially when strawberries are replanted on the same site year after year without rotation. These challenges are intensified in the Southeastern U.S. where warmer temperatures and poorer soils result in increased pest pressure. Research on sustainable and biologically-based approaches to soil and pest management practices is currently lacking for both conventional and organic strawberry growers, especially in the SE region. The purpose of this project was to examine the individual and integrated effects of sustainable soil and pest management practices of composts, summer cover crops, and beneficial soil inoculants (vermicomposts and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) on parameters that indicate successful production. These concerns were approached with objectives to 1) examine the effects of the sustainable soil and pest management practices on strawberry yields, growth, nutrient uptake, fruit quality, above-ground arthropod pests, soil quality and economic indicators; and 2) promote the transfer of this technical and educational knowledge to farmers, extension agents, researchers and students.

Schroeder-Moreno project photo 2Project Outputs and Impacts

The research group monitored strawberry plant growth, soil nutrients, diseases, pollinator visits, and mycorrhizal colonization of roots. At the end of harvest soil samples were taken for soil nutrient analysis, aggregate stability and mycorrhizal fungal diversity. Total and marketable fruit yields for each treatment were also measured. The team was able to generate more activity than originally proposed. Five extra magazine and online articles on this research were generated in addition to a North Carolina Strawberry Association newsletter. A short informational video on plug production with beneficial inoculants (mycorrhizas and vermicompost) was produced and currently has 558 views on YouTube. Weekly strawberry harvests from the field project were donated to the North Carolina Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) that reached low-income individuals, families and children in the community. It is estimated that about 150,000 consumers were reached through the News & Observer Newspaper article, social media, and the video on YouTube. An online webinar on the use and implementation of sustainable soil and pest management practices was attended live by 20 people from around the country. The recording remained available to the public, and has since been viewed 238 times.