Phase II

Sustainable Soil Management Practices for Strawberries: Diverse Approaches for Facilitating Adoption

 

Contact: Michelle Schroeder-Moreno, 919-270-4254, michelle_schroeder@ncsu.edumoreno in field with collaborators

Leadership Team:

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

 Project Collaborators:

  • Gina Fernandez, North Carolina State University, Department of Horticulture Science Extension Specialist
  • Yasmin Cardoza, North Carolina State University, Department of Entomology
  • Hannah Burrack, North Carolina State University, Department of Entomology and Extension Specialist
  • Olya Sydorovych, North Carolina State University, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics
  • Kevin Schooley, North American Strawberry Growers Association
  • Lisa Vines, North Carolina Strawberry Association, Executive Secretary

Summary

Maintaining soil health and productivity in an annual strawberry plasticulture system is a challenge, especially in the Southeastern U.S. where weathered soils with low organic matter are common. The overall goal of the North Carolina project was to increase adoption of sustainable soil management practices, including composts, cover crops, and beneficial soil inoculations (vermicomposts and arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi) in commercial strawberry farms. The project team partnered with four strawberry growers, one strawberry plug producer and one research station to demonstrate these practices and improve technology transfer to growers. Results were extended through Extension workshops, conference talks, field days, project videos, and through the North Carolina Strawberry Association. An Extension publication, an on-farm research report, and an interactive strawberry budget comparing these practices were developed, and a peer reviewed scientific journal article was accepted for publication. Grower experiences were highlighted in a video series called Views for the Field (see links below).

Project Outputs and Impacts

As a result of project activities that included workshops, field days, conference talks, videos, on-farm research, and outreach publications and articles, more than 500 growers and 100 Extension educators in the Southeastern U.S. have increased their awareness and knowledge of practices that sustain soil health. Workshop evaluations indicate that more than 50 percent of participants said they would change their practices to include sustainable soil management practices. All of the on-farm collaborators now have first-hand experience with the management associated with cover crops, compost and plug inoculations. One of the on-farm collaborators, who is a conventional strawberry grower and farmer-leader in his community, has become an advocate of soil health practices and has signage in his strawberry fields about the project. His farm receives more than 3,000 visitors per year through CSA, pick-your-own and agritourism activities; these vistors now know about the sustainable practices he is implementing.

Research experiment results indicated that the soil management practices did not consistently impact yields in the two years of the experiment. However, when averaged over the two years, plug inoculation yielded the highest in fumigation systems and cover crops alone yielded the highest in the fumigated system. Additional research results can be found in the On-farm Evaluation of Sustainable Soil Management Practices report.

Project Websites:

Publications: