(303) Challenges of Organic Hydroponic Production of Strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa)

in HortScience

Feasible protocols for organic hydroponic production of strawberry are necessary and this study compares the yield and fruit quality of organic and conventional inorganic hydroponic production. Some issues identified with organic hydroponic strawberry production are: 1) dominant ammonium nitrogen form; 2) solution alkalinity; and 3) dissolved oxygen level of nutrient solution. Eighty bare-rooted `Diamante' plantlets were planted in coconut fiber pots with a mixture of coconut coir (30%) and perlite (70%) and grown in a modified nutrient film technique system inside a polycarbonate greenhouse. The organic nutrient solution contains mostly ammonium nitrogen and little nitrate nitrogen. To enhance colonization and activities of nitrifying bacteria, coconut fiber mats were placed in the organic nutrient solution reservoir. A similar system was also introduced for stock solution pre-conditioning where nitrification and pH stabilization were achieved before application to the strawberry plantlets. The organic nutrient solution prior to pre-conditioning had only 1.53 mg·L-1 nitrate nitrogen, although the nitrate nitrogen level increased to 63.2 mg·L-1 after pre-conditioning. The organic nutrient solution pH was 4.5 initially, 8.5 after 24 hours of pre-conditioning, and finally, shifted to and stabilized at 5.7–5.9 after 3 days. Dissolved oxygen level is critical for both nitrifying bacteria activities and plantlet root growth; therefore, oxygen enrichment was achieved by constantly aerating the nutrient solution in the reservoir, which raised the oxygen level from 2.5 to 7.4 mg·L-1. Comparisons of yield and quality of strawberry fruits between organic and inorganic nutrient solutions will be presented and further improvements of hydroponic systems will be discussed.

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