Jeffrey S. Karns, Cathleen J. Hapeman, Walter W. Mulbry, Elmer H. Ahrens and Daniel R. Shelton
Matthew D. Stevens, Brent L. Black, John D. Lea-Cox, Ali M. Sadeghi, Jennifer Harman-Fetcho, Emy Pfeil, Peter Downey, Randy Rowland and Cathleen J. Hapeman
The environmental effects of the three strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) cold-climate production systems were compared: the traditional method of conventional matted row (CMR) and the two more recently developed practices of advanced matted row (AMR) and cold-climate plasticulture (CCP). Side-by-side field plots were instrumented with automated flow meters and samplers to measure and collect runoff, which was filtered and analyzed to determine soil, pesticide, and nitrogen losses. Although annual mean runoff volumes were similar for all three production systems, the soil losses from CMR plots were two to three times greater than the CCP plots throughout the study and two to three times greater than the AMR plots only in the first year of the 3-year study. In general, decreases in erosion and runoff volumes were observed in plots that were disturbed less by machine operations and had less foot traffic as a result of decreased need for hand weeding and in the plots that used straw mulch in the furrows between the beds. Timing and intensity of precipitation events also influenced the amount of soil erosion. Pesticide residues and nitrogen losses were also greatest in the runoff from the CMR plots. The two systems that used drip fertigation, AMR and CCP, also had higher nitrogen uptake efficiencies. Overall, the CCP and AMR systems performed similarly for most criteria; however, considering the nonrenewable nature of the plastic mulch and the need to dispose of the plastic mulch in a landfill, the AMR system was more environmentally sustainable than the CCP system.