June 27, 2017

A visit with a low tunnel strawberries collaborator

As part of this project, we have several collaborating farms that are also growing day-neutral strawberries using a low tunnel system.  One of those collaborating farms is Prairie Horizons Farm  (Luverne and Mary Jo Forbord) in Starbuck, MN.  Steve had the opportunity to visit with them recently about their experience in the 2015 growing season.

During the visit, Luverne pointed out that some of the strawberry plants were unstable due to the roots being exposed above the soil line.  This caused the plant to move about freely in the the wind, and didn’t appear to be securely planted in the ground.  We are not certain why this happened; was it because the plants weren’t planted deep enough initially?  We don’t know at this point.  But it is a good reminder to make sure plants are planted deep enough so that the crown is barely peeking out above the soil line.

When roots are exposed, this tends to weaken the plant.

When roots are exposed, this tends to weaken the plant.

The Forbords experienced a wind event over the summer, in which the low tunnel plastic was blown off of the hoops.  While there was no damage to the structure or the plants, and we were able to put the system back together, it did prompt us to consider the need to install additional anchor stakes to further secure the tunnel.

In the previous two years, the Forbords plants had an iron chlorosis problem, or iron deficiency in the soil.  To elevate this issue, we took soil samples from three separate areas within their growing area.  Two of the areas had a soil ph of 7.5, while the other had 7.3 (this is where plants were grown in 2015).  This year, there is no noticeable symptoms of iron chlorosis from the 7.3 ph tested area.  Based on our experience and observation, day neutral strawberry plants appear to grow better in soils that have tested less than 7.5 ph.

Most all of our grower sites have experienced leaf spot disease on the Albion day neutral plants; however, the Forbords haven’t found any leaf spot this growing season.

Healthy, productive plants at Forbords

Healthy, productive plants at Forbords

Production season at Forbords was a bit later as compared to the other sites; they began to harvest near mid-August as opposed to late-July for the other sites.

All growing sites (except Forbords) are noticing severe tarnished plant bug damage.  Forbords have not sprayed any insecticide, and have had very little damage from the tarnish plant bug.