Fall-applied Rowcovers Enhance Yield in Plasticulture Strawberries

in HortTechnology

The environmental conditions necessary for floral initiation and development in North Carolina can be arrested by the onset of an early drop in temperatures in the fall soon after planting. Floating rowcovers were placed on plots of three cultivars of strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa), `Chandler', `Camarosa' and `Sweet Charlie,' for 2 weeks in the fall to determine if fruit yield could be increased by enhancing additional plant growth. Yields were taken on plots with and without rowcovers the following spring. Temperatures and photosynthetic photon flux were monitored under the rowcovers, as well in adjacent plots that were not covered throughout the year. Daily, minimum, maximum and mean temperatures were generally higher under the rowcovers when ambient temperatures were above 10 °C (50 °F). Rowcovers had no effect on leaf area, root, crown, leaf, flower and fruit dry weight in the first year and a minimal affect in the second year. The application of rowcovers increased total yield and marketable yield by 80 to 100 g/plant (0.18 to 0.22 lb/plant) but did not affect fruit weight. This study suggests that rowcovers can improve yield. However further studies are needed to assess effects of time of initial placement and duration of rowcovers on strawberry yield, growth and development.

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