Priority 7: Increasing product value

Strawberry Grower Education and Adoption of Research Innovations: Technology Transfer of Production Recommendations

 

Primary InvestigatorsPerkins-Veazie project photo 1

  • Penelope Perkins-Veazie, North Carolina State University, Plants for Human Health Institute, Department of Horticultural Sciences
  • Jeremy Pattison, North Carolina State University, Plants for Human Health Institute, Department of Horticultural Sciences

Project Collaborators

  • Gina Fernandez, North Carolina State University, Department of Horticultural Sciences
  • Jonathan R. Baros, North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Plants for Human Health Institute
  • Leah Chester-Davis, North Carolina State University, Plants for Human Health Institute, Communications and Community Outreach
  • Powell Smith, Clemson University, Cooperative Extension
  • Elizabeth Ponce, Lassen Canyon Nursery
  • Debby Wechsler, North Carolina Strawberry Association
  • Roy Flanagan, Virginia Cooperative Extension

Project Summary

This project addressed three areas of strawberry production and post-harvest handling for North Carolina and the mid-South. The project objectives included developing improved production practices to stabilize yield variability due to weather; developing inexpensive and energy efficient cooling systems and improving fruit quality management; and mitigating financial risk while demonstrating the economic impacts of production improvements. As a result of this project, a fall growing degree-day (GDD) model was validated, identifying the best planting date and timing of row cover placement. The model was tested in three locations in North Carolina and yields were maximized when predicted planting dates were followed. Use of a heavy weight row cover increased yields an average of 37 percent. The yield of ‘Camarosa,’ which tends to have lower yields than ‘Chandler,’ was most improved by row cover. In contrast, Chandler had the least yield improvement with row cover. Postharvest shelf life of fully ripe and cooled fruit was seven days at 35° F. Use of the Pack-N-Cool trailer, set at 40° F, lowered fruit temperatures by 15° F within 60 minutes. A total of 402 growers, 56 extension agents and 235 students were affected by this research through on-farm work, a strawberry school and strawberry meetings.

perkins fieldProject Outputs and Impacts

This project engaged eight growers in three states (N.C., Va., S.C.) in on-farm trials to test and develop planting recommendations that minimize yield fluctuations for the predominant cultivars in production, ‘Camarosa’ and ‘Chandler.’ A fall growing degree-day model was tested and recommendations were made for autumn planting and row cover placement based on the model. Because of the unusually harsh winter conditions the quality and weight of row covers was reassessed. It is now recommended to use row covers with a minimum weight of 1.25 oz/yd2. Using these recommendations, a 37 percent increase in yields across 10 varieties was obtained. These locally harvested, fully ripe strawberries can be held 7 to14 days at 35° F when promptly cooled. A demonstration of an easy-to-build cooling trailer, ideal for small and mid-sized growers, showed a 10° F drop in temperature within 30 minutes. By using these recommended practices for planting and row covers for increased yield and by using rapid cooling of fruit for improved fruit quality, growers can increase their bottom lines. These ideas were shared at the North Carolina Strawberry Association meeting, the 2014 Virginia Strawberry School and field days in the two states. Each of the growers involved with the project will continue to use the GDD model for planting and row covers. At least two of the growers have constructed the portable cooling trailer to rapidly cool berries and improve shelf life.

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