Yields of bare-rooted ‘Festival’ strawberry plants in southeastern Queensland, Australia, were best with a planting in mid-March, with lower yields with earlier or later plantings (Menzel and Smith, 2011). In contrast, large plants with crown diameters ranging from 10 to 17 mm had higher yields than small plants with crown diameters ranging from 6 to 10 mm. This research did not determine whether small plants yield proportionally less than large plants as planting is delayed after the optimum date.
The work in southeastern Queensland followed previous studies that assessed the productivity of strawberry fields in Florida. Florida has a similar climate to southeastern Queensland, with strawberry fruit produced from December to April which is equivalent to June to October in southeastern Queensland, under similar growing systems (Peres et al., 2009; Whitaker et al., 2012). Nursery material planted in October in Florida generally provided better yields or returns than material planted in September or November (Albregts and Chandler, 1994; Albregts and Howard, 1974, 1977, 1980; Chandler et al., 1991; Duval et al., 2005; Locascio, 1972).
The size of transplants has been shown to have mixed effects on yield, with experiments conducted in Europe (Bartczak et al., 2010; Schrevens et al., 1989), the United States (Takeda et al., 2004), and South America (Cocco et al., 2011). None of these experiments examined plants of different sizes planted at different times.
The effect of time of planting and plant size on the performance of ‘Festival’ and ‘Florida Fortuna’ strawberry plants growing in southeastern Queensland was studied over 2 years. The ‘Festival’ transplants were planted in late March, mid-April, or late April, whereas the ‘Florida Fortuna’ transplants were planted in early April, mid-April, or early May. The stock from the nursery was classified as small plants with crowns smaller than 8 mm (‘Florida Fortuna’) or smaller than 10 mm (‘Festival’). The large plants had crowns larger than 8 or 10 mm. The early planting for each cultivar corresponded with the time that the transplants are first available from the strawberry nurseries. ‘Florida Fortuna’ known as ‘Florida Radiance’ in the United States was developed by Chandler et al. (2009) and has been reported to produce high early season yields and maintain good fruit size. ‘Florida Fortuna’ has only been grown fairly recently in Australia. In some experiments in Florida, ‘Florida Fortuna’ has had higher yields than ‘Festival’ (Chandler et al., 2009; Santos et al., 2009; Whitaker et al., 2012) and has larger fruit at the end of the season during warm weather (Whitaker et al., 2012). These last authors also noted that it has suboptimal growth in the nurseries, including weak petioles that are easily broken. In Florida, ‘Festival’ is still the main strawberry cultivar produced and accounts for ≈60% of commercial plantings (Whitaker et al., 2011). ‘Florida Fortuna’ accounts for ≈10% of commercial plantings.
The present experiments were different to the previous research in southeastern Queensland (Menzel and Smith, 2011) in that the treatments involved small and large transplants planted at different times and included ‘Florida Fortuna’. It was proposed that the small transplants would yield proportionally less than large transplants as planting was delayed. None of the reports from Florida have investigated these relationships. There have also been no reports on optimum times of planting for ‘Florida Fortuna’ in the United States. In Australia, transplants of ‘Florida Fortuna’ are smaller than those of ‘Festival’ and are not available from the nurseries until April. Transplants of ‘Festival’ are not available until late March, after the optimum time of planting (Menzel and Smith, 2011).
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