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Christopher M. Menzel and Lindsay Smith

The effect of time of planting and plant size on the performance of ‘Festival’ and ‘Florida Fortuna’ strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) plants was studied at Nambour in southeastern Queensland, Australia, over 2 years. The main objective of the work was to determine whether small plants yielded proportionally less than large plants as planting was delayed. First, bare-rooted transplants of ‘Festival’ were divided into small (crown diameters ranging from 6 to 10 mm) or large plants (10 to 17 mm) and planted in late March, mid-April, or late April. Second, transplants of ‘Florida Fortuna’ were divided into small (5 to 8 mm) or large plants (8 to 17 mm) and planted in early April, mid-April, or early May. The early planting for each cultivar corresponded with the time that the transplants are first available from commercial strawberry nurseries. Yields were generally greater in plants planted in late March/early April compared with plants planted later. Differences in yield between the small and large plants were consistent across the different times of planting, with the small plants always having lower yields. Small transplants are an issue for the productivity of strawberry fields in this environment whether they are planted early or late. Producers should consider paying a premium for large transplants delivered early in the season.

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Christopher M. Menzel and Lindsay Smith

Experiments were conducted to study the effect of time of digging and nursery-growing environment on the levels of non-structural carbohydrates in ‘Festival’ strawberry transplants (Fragaria ×ananassa) over 2 years in southeastern Queensland, Australia. We were interested in determining whether there was a strong relationship between the potential productivity of this material and reserves in the plants. First, bare-rooted plants were obtained from Stanthorpe in southern Queensland from early March to mid-April/late April. Second, bare-rooted plants were sourced from Stanthorpe (a warm-growing area) or from Toolangi in Victoria (a cool-growing area). In Year 1 of the experiments, the nursery material from the different treatments was grown at Nambour in southeastern Queensland and fruit yield determined. The total weight of non-structural carbohydrates/plant increased as digging was delayed and was higher in the plants from Stanthorpe than the plants from Toolangi. Plants dug on 17 Mar. in Year 1 had higher weights of non-structural carbohydrates [292 mg/plant dry weight (DW)] than plants dug on 3 Mar. (224 mg/plant) and higher early yield to the end of June or to the end of July and higher total yield to mid-October adjusted by the length of the growing season for the different treatments. Plants dug on 1 Apr. (408 mg/plant) or on 13 Apr. (445 mg/plant) had higher reserves than the plants dug on 17 Mar. but lower yields. Only the differences in yields between the plants dug on 3 Mar. and 17 Mar. reflected the differences in carbohydrates. The stock from Stanthorpe had greater reserves (408 mg/plant) than the stock from Toolangi (306 mg/plant) but similar yields in Year 1 possibly because of poorer flowering in the nursery plants. It was concluded that carbohydrate reserves in transplants only partially reflect their productivity in this environment.

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Christopher M. Menzel, Lindsay A. Smith and Jenny A. Moisander

The effect of plastic high tunnels on the performance of two strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) cultivars (Festival and Rubygem) and two breeding lines was studied in southeastern Queensland, Australia, over 2 years. Production in this area is affected by rain, with direct damage to the fruit and the development of fruit disease before harvest. The main objective of the study was to determine whether plants growing under tunnels had less rain damage, a lower incidence of disease, and higher yields than plants growing outdoors. Plants growing under the tunnels or outdoors had at best only small differences in leaf, crown, root, and flower and immature fruit dry weight. These responses were associated with relatively similar temperatures and relative humidities in the two growing environments. Marketable yields were 38% higher under the tunnels compared with yields outdoors in year 1, and 24% higher in year 2, mainly due to less rain damage. There were only small differences in the incidences of grey mold (Botrytis cinerea) and small and misshaped fruit in the plants growing under the tunnels and outdoors. There were also only small differences in postharvest quality, total soluble solids, and titratable acidity between the two environments. These results highlight the potential of plastic high tunnels for strawberry plants growing in subtropical areas that receive significant rainfall during the production season.