The Influence of Preharvest Calcium Applications on Postharvest Quality and Yield of `Sweet Charlie' Strawberry

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  • 1 Univ. of Florida, Horticultural Sciences, Dover, FL 33527
  • | 2 Univ. of Florida, Horticultural Sciences
  • | 3 Univ. of Florida, Horticultural Sciences
  • | 4 Univ. of Florida, Horticultural Sciences

Strawberries are a high value commodity with a short shelf life. Florida is the largest producer of winter strawberries in the United States with 2,790 hectares of production, 90% are located in Hillsborough County. Many Florida growers apply additional calcium (Ca) as a foliar spray despite the lack of conclusive evidence of an increase in fruit quality or yield. It is believed that additional Ca will improve cell wall integrity through Ca linkages with pectins with in the cell wall and increase fruit firmness. Preharvest applications of calcium chloride have shown to delay the ripening of strawberry fruit and mold development. The objectives of this two year study were to determine the effects of Ca on yield, growth, and postharvest quality of strawberry when applied to the soil or as a foliar spray. `Sweet Charlie' strawberry plants were grown on a Seffner fine sand in Dover, Fla. The experimental design was a split-block replicated four times with soil and foliar Ca applications. Main plots consisted of a broadcast preplant incorporation of gypsum (calcium sulfate) 0 kg·ha-1, 36.7 kg·ha-1, and 73.4 kg·ha-1. Sub-plots consisted of foliar applications of 400 mg·L-1 Ca from calcium sulfate, 400 and 800 mg·L-1 Ca from calcium chloride and a water control applied weekly throughout the 2002-03 and 2003-04 growing season. Yield data was collected twice weekly through out the growing season. Fruits were graded for quality based upon size, visual appearance of pathogens degradation, frost/water damage, and misshapen form. Calcium content was determined for leaves, fruit, and calyxes in January and March. Postharvest quality evaluations of pH, titratable acidy, soluble solids, and firmness (Instron 4411) were determined in January and March.

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