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  • Author or Editor: John E. Beck x
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High-tunnel strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) production for extended seasons has a great economic potential for small farmers. However, information on cultivars that are suitable for high tunnels is rather limited. In this study conducted in the 2014–15 season, strawberry plugs of eight June-bearing cultivars (Florida Radiance, Benicia, Camarosa, Camino Real, Chandler, Strawberry Festival, Sweet Charlie, and Winterstar) and two day-neutral cultivars (San Andreas and Albion) were evaluated for yield performance, fruit quality, and vegetative growth in organically managed high tunnels at two locations in North Carolina. Significant cultivar differences in whole-season yield were observed at Greensboro, NC; but not at Goldsboro, NC. The cultivar Florida Radiance had the highest marketable and total yields, followed by Winterstar and Chandler at Greensboro, whereas Benicia, Winterstar, and Chandler were the top producing cultivars at Goldsboro. Harvest of day-neutral cultivars San Andreas and Albion started in November. For June-bearing cultivars, Florida Radiance began to produce harvestable berries in late December, followed by Winterstar in early January. Peak harvest occurred in April for all cultivars. At the end of the season, ‘Albion’ had smaller canopy size than other cultivars. It also developed the fewest number of branch crowns and least aboveground biomass. Total soluble solid (TSS) content in April was lower than that observed early and late in the season for all cultivars, although Strawberry Festival exhibited a relatively stable TSS throughout the season. ‘Benicia’ produced the largest strawberries in the early season, but its fruit weight was remarkably reduced as the season progressed. Severe frost events occurred on 18 and 20 Feb. that caused an average of 61.5% and 32.2% open blossom damage at Greensboro and Goldsboro, respectively. The recommended cultivars based on this 1-year study are Florida Radiance, Benicia, and Camino Real for June-bearing cultivars, and Albion and San Andreas for day-neutral cultivars.

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Summer cover crop rotations, compost, and vermicompost additions can be important strategies for transition to organic production that can provide various benefits to crop yields, nitrogen (N) availability, and overall soil health, yet are underused in strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) production in North Carolina. This study was aimed at evaluating six summer cover crop treatments including pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), soybean (Glycine max), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), pearl millet/soybean combination, pearl millet/cowpea combination, and a no cover crop control, with and without vermicompost additions for their effects on strawberry growth, yields, nutrient uptake, weeds, and soil inorganic nitrate-nitrogen and ammonium-nitrogen in a 2-year field experiment. Compost was additionally applied before seeding cover crops and preplant N fertilizer was reduced by 67% to account for organic N additions. Although all cover crops (with compost) increased soil N levels during strawberry growth compared with the no cover crop treatment, cover crops did not impact strawberry yields in the first year of the study. In the 2nd year, pearl millet cover crop treatments reduced total and marketable strawberry yields, and soybean treatments reduced marketable strawberry yields when compared with the no cover crop treatment, whereas vermicompost additions increased strawberry biomass and yields. Results from this study suggest that vermicompost additions can be important sustainable soil management strategies for transitional and certified organic strawberry production. Summer cover crops integrated with composts can provide considerable soil N, reducing fertilizer needs, but have variable responses on strawberry depending on the specific cover crop species or combination. Moreover, these practices are suitable for both organic and conventional strawberry growers and will benefit from longer-term studies that assess these practices individually and in combination and other benefits in addition to yields.

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