Extending Strawberry Growing Season

Growing strawberry plants in the U.S. Mid-Atlantic region beneath canopy-like structures called low tunnels can allow the season to start earlier and continue through the summer and fall, according to USDA scientists.

At the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory in Beltsville, MD, geneticist Kim Lewers is testing some strawberry cultivars in the new production system designed to extend the growing season in the northern and eastern U.S. Lewers’ research partners are horticulturist John Enns and support services staffer George Meyers. ARS is USDA’s chief intramural scientific research agency.

Low tunnels are canopies made of long sheets of plastic laid over support hoops that hold it about 30 inches above the strawberry bed. Strawberries are planted beneath these structures, which protect the fruit from rain, provide shade from damaging infrared and UV light, and can capture warmth during the cooler spring and fall seasons.

By protecting the plants from rain, the tunnels help to minimize two important diseases of strawberry: Botrytis and anthracnose, which thrive in the rain. Botrytis occurs in cool, wet conditions, while anthracnose takes hold in hot, wet conditions.

According to Lewers, high tunnels also are used by growers, but they can be problematic because the humidity is higher in the tunnel, which causes more Botrytis and more powdery mildew, another strawberry disease. In low tunnels, though, the humidity is the same as outside the tunnel when the sides of the tunnel are up.

The peak strawberry season in Maryland is usually mid-May to mid-June, but in Lewers’ low-tunnel production system, strawberries start earlier and continue through the fall — essentially a whole new season. In some months, yields in the low tunnels can be as high as those from the same cultivars when they are grown in California, where they were developed.

All of the strawberry plant material developed in Lewers’ research program has been and still is freely available. The plants are not patented, so they are available without special license to any nursery that wants to grow them.

Read more about this and other fruit and vegetable research in the October 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Extending Strawberry Growing Season

  1. I have been considering covering my fall raspberries under the same concerns I believe many fruit rot problems develope from high moisture environments. cold nights warm days cause dew problems almost on a daily basis in later summer. The amount of fruit damaged by moisture in a season is huge. Would it pay economically to set up fans throughout the crops to help eliminate this moisture problem solar or through tubing like the drip irrigation system. I am glad to see moisture problems front and center I believe there on the right track, harvesting would be easier and yields larger on less land,fewer chemicals used less fertilizer more precision farming.

Featured Stories

IrrigationCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Growers
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More
EquipmentEnter To Win A Kubota At The Washington State Horticultural Association Annual Meeting
October 29, 2014
Attendees have a chance to take home a new utility vehicle courtesy of Wilbur-Ellis and Western Fruit Grower. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
The funds will go toward helping growers implement conservation practices to improve honey bee health. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More

The Latest

IrrigationCalifornia Growers Sue State Over Drought
October 30, 2014
They claim the State Water Resources Control Board illegally denied water deliveries. Read More
CucurbitsNew Watermelon Planting Program For The Southeast U.S.
October 30, 2014
Sakata seeking to make regional impact by providing in-demand material through several local producers. Read More
Leafy Vegetables3 Can’t-Miss Cabbage Varieties For Florida Grower…
October 30, 2014
Reed's Seeds highlights a trio of high-performance selections for Sunshine State producers. Read More
Insect ControlTake Control Of Thrips In Your Greenhouse
October 30, 2014
Why such a foreboding title? Thrips, one of the tiniest pests of greenhouse crops, are the carrier of one of Read More
BerriesManage Black Root Rot Of Strawberry
October 30, 2014
Controls include preplant nematode analysis, three-to-five year crop rotations, and more. Read More
FruitsSexual Evolution May Bear More Fruit In The Orchard
October 30, 2014
Scientists take a closer look at genes and find new plant breeding possibilities. Read More
Apples & PearsWashington Apples To Restart Shipments To China
October 29, 2014
Agreement reached between U.S. and Chinese governments to reinstate market access after two-year absence. Read More
EquipmentEnter To Win A Kubota At The Washington State Horticult…
October 29, 2014
Attendees have a chance to take home a new utility vehicle courtesy of Wilbur-Ellis and Western Fruit Grower. Read More
CitrusUSDA To Provide $4 Million For Honey Bee Habitat
October 29, 2014
The funds will go toward helping growers implement conservation practices to improve honey bee health. Read More
FruitsHuge California Drought Meeting Planned
October 29, 2014
State, federal officials to meet as forecasts for the coming year look bleak. Read More
PotatoesNew CEO At Black Gold Farms, A Top 100 Grower
October 28, 2014
Eric Halverson takes the reins at the potato operation, while his father Gregg will remain president of the farm’s board of directors. Read More
FruitsValent U.S.A., MGK Enter Into Marketing Agreement
October 28, 2014
Valent U.S.A. to manage the marketing and sales of MGK’s crop protection line of insect control products beginning in April 2015. Read More
VegetablesMultistate Land-Grant University Research Project Contr…
October 28, 2014
The project began in the 1970s as a Regional Initiative and has since expanded Internationally. Read More
FruitsMichigan State Offers Online Database Of Tree Fruit Dis…
October 28, 2014
Search engine helps growers identify several issues in the orchard. Read More
Stone FruitStudy Examines How To Keep Sweet Cherries Fresh
October 28, 2014
Canadian researcher says cooling of sweet cherries is key to delivering a quality product. Read More
Protected AgricultureLED Lighting Symposium To Be Held At University Of Ariz…
October 27, 2014
Event to focus on LED lighting technologies for specialty crop production. Read More
Cucurbits11 Cool Cucurbits For Florida’s Climate
October 27, 2014
Leading vegetable seed companies highlight high-performance selections for growers in the Sunshine State. Read More
CitrusModern Agriculture Is A True Centerpiece Of Thanksgivin…
October 27, 2014
FFAA's Mary Hartney says take time during this holiday season to give thanks where thanks is due. Read More