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George Hochmuth, Dan Cantliffe, Craig Chandler, Craig Stanley, Eric Bish, Eric Waldo, Dan Legard, and John Duval

Experiments were conducted in two seasons in Dover, Fla. (central Florida), with bare-root and containerized (plug) strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) transplants to evaluate transplant establishment-period water use, plant growth, and flowering responses in the 3-week transplant establishment period. Strawberry plug plants were established with 290 gal/acre water applied only with the transplant at planting time, while 200,000 gal/acre from microjet or 1 million gal/acre of water from sprinkler irrigation were used to establish bare-root transplants. Root, shoot, and crown dry matter of plug plants rapidly increased during the establishment period, while there was a decline in leaf area and root and crown mass of bare-root plants, even with sprinkler or microjet irrigation. Water applied with the bare-root transplant only at planting was not enough to keep the plant alive during the establishment period. Large plug plants, but not irrigated bare-root plants, began flowering at 3 weeks after planting. Plug plants were used to successfully establish strawberry crops with low water inputs.

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George Hochmuth, Dan Cantliffe, Craig Chandler, Craig Stanley, Eric Bish, Eric Waldo, Dan Legard, and John Duval

Strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) crops were transplanted in two seasons in central Florida with bare-root and containerized (plug) plants under three transplant establishment-period irrigation methods to evaluate crop fruiting responses and production economics associated with the various establishment systems. Irrigation was not required to establish plug transplants in the field. Early (first 2 months) fruit yield with nonirrigated plug plants was greater than early yield with sprinkler-irrigated bare-root plants (the current commercial system) in one of two seasons and equal in a second season. Total-season yields were similar in each season between the two establishment systems. Large or medium plug plants led to greatest early fruit yields in one season while large plug plants resulted in greatest early yield in a second season. Total yield was greatest with medium plants in one season and large plants in another season. The extra cost for the plug plant system was $1853/acre. In one out of two seasons there was increased net income amounting to $1142/acre due to greater early yield associated with the plug plant cultural system. Strawberry plug transplants showed promise for earlier and more profitable crops in addition to substantial savings in water used for plant establishment in the field. The ability to establish strawberry crops without irrigation will be important in areas where growers are required to reduce farm water consumption.