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
Young Grower Alliance
GenNext Growers
June 29, 2016
Support Agriculture By Supporting New Growers [Opinion]
The next generation of farming in the U.S. needs all the help they can get. Read More
Varroa mites, like the one attached to the back of this honey bee, can decimate unprotected hives. The tiny parasites feed on the bees' blood and can infect them with harmful viruses. (Photo credit: Scott Bauer, USDA-ARS)
Fruits
June 28, 2016
Bees May Accidentally Bring Varroa Mites Into Their Hives
A USDA research team is learning that mite populations often spike in the fall, due to migration into the hives. Read More
Photo credit: USDA
Farm Management
June 28, 2016
USDA Announces Conservation Programs, Partnerships During National Pollinator Week
USDA, industry organizations join up to ensure conservation efforts include pollinators. Read More
DJI developed the Agras MG-1 UAV specifically for agriculture. (Photo credit: DJI)
Equipment
June 28, 2016
Washington State University Partners With UAV Manufacturer On Research
DJI, a global leader in drone and camera technology, will work with the university to research use of UAVs. Read More
cracked earth
Farm Marketing
June 28, 2016
Parts Of Michigan Close To Drought Status
USDA report indicates parts of the state have received less than one inch of rainfall in June. Read More
Marty McKenna inspects a tree in his citrus grove
Citrus Achievement Award
June 28, 2016
2016 Citrus Achievement Award Winner Has High Hopes For A Crop Comeback
Marty McKenna says if bactericides can help maintain production of younger citrus trees, it could have a huge impact on the industry's future. Read More
Panama Canal Expansion opening celebration
Citrus
June 28, 2016
Panama Canal Expands For New Trade Opportunities
First vessel passes through new, larger locks as country celebrates. Read More
GP California State Capitol
Fruits
June 28, 2016
Fruit Association Chief To Head California Agricultural Leadership Foundation
Barry Bedwell has been president and CEO of the California Fresh Fruit Association since 2003. Read More
Young citrus trees wrapped in The Tree Defender product
Insect & Disease Update
June 27, 2016
Tree Cover Product Created To Help Fight Citrus Scourges
Unique protection for young citrus trees could help cut pest-control costs up to 50% in the first two years. Read More
Convex landforms in Virginia are advantageous for grape growers as shown at this summer vineyard meeting. (Photo credit: Tremain Hatch)
Grapes
June 27, 2016
Make Time To Visit Other Vineyards
Getting out in your neighbor’s vineyard can help improve your own. Read More
The Latest
GenNext Growers
June 29, 2016
Support Agriculture By Supporting New Gr…
The next generation of farming in the U.S. needs all the help they can get. Read More
Fruits
June 28, 2016
Bees May Accidentally Bring Varroa Mites…
A USDA research team is learning that mite populations often spike in the fall, due to migration into the hives. Read More
Farm Management
June 28, 2016
USDA Announces Conservation Programs, Pa…
USDA, industry organizations join up to ensure conservation efforts include pollinators. Read More
Equipment
June 28, 2016
Washington State University Partners Wit…
DJI, a global leader in drone and camera technology, will work with the university to research use of UAVs. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 28, 2016
Parts Of Michigan Close To Drought Statu…
USDA report indicates parts of the state have received less than one inch of rainfall in June. Read More
Citrus Achievement Award
June 28, 2016
2016 Citrus Achievement Award Winner Has…
Marty McKenna says if bactericides can help maintain production of younger citrus trees, it could have a huge impact on the industry's future. Read More
Citrus
June 28, 2016
Panama Canal Expands For New Trade Oppor…
First vessel passes through new, larger locks as country celebrates. Read More
Fruits
June 28, 2016
Fruit Association Chief To Head Californ…
Barry Bedwell has been president and CEO of the California Fresh Fruit Association since 2003. Read More
Insect & Disease Update
June 27, 2016
Tree Cover Product Created To Help Fight…
Unique protection for young citrus trees could help cut pest-control costs up to 50% in the first two years. Read More
Grapes
June 27, 2016
Make Time To Visit Other Vineyards
Getting out in your neighbor’s vineyard can help improve your own. Read More
Farm Management
June 24, 2016
Senate Reaches Agreement On GMO Labeling…
The measure would nullify Vermont's first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law, which takes effect July 1. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 24, 2016
Ideas For How To Label Your Products [Ph…
Take a look at how several different local food producers designed their labeling to not only include legally required information, but also marketing messages that make them stand out. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 24, 2016
Florida Publishes Great Resource For Agr…
Florida Agritourism Association releases a hefty 66-page guide to running an agritourism operation, one packed full of advice that crosses state lines, as well as state-specific information. Read More
Farm Marketing
June 24, 2016
Are Farmers’ Markets Losing Their …
The Washington Post published an in depth article questioning if farmers markets have become such a social venue, that customers are buying more prepared food than fresh produce. Read More
Citrus
June 24, 2016
Is It EPA’s Intention To Help Or H…
A common theme I see in complaints about the government agency is it appears to be taking action more and more based on ideology and public opinion rather than sound science. Read More
Crop Protection
June 23, 2016
Scientists Selected To Work On Healthy H…
The four-year, $1 million program has a goal of improving the health of honeybee colonies. Read More
Citrus
June 23, 2016
Survey: Consumers Hungry For More Info O…
University of Florida researchers find learning opportunity among poll results regarding genetically modified foods. Read More
Citrus
June 23, 2016
Florida Fruit & Vegetable Associatio…
Mike Allen, a Founder of Politico and its Chief White House Correspondent, slated as keynote speaker for association's 73rd annual gathering. Read More
[gravityform id="62" title="false" description="false"]