Site visits to our three grower cooperators took place during mid-season and again at the end of the growing season. They assisted with planting, cultural practices, harvest and worked with us to develop and refine the systems in this project, and to assist in educating other growers.
Our grower cooperators were:
- Mary Jo and Laverne Forbord, Owner/Operator Prairie Horizon Farm, Starbuck, MN.
- Ron Branch, Owner/Operator Berry Ridge Farm, Alexandria, MN.
- David Macgregor/Marsha Anklam, Owners/Operators Fairhaven Farm, South Haven, MN.
At the completion of the growing season, our grower cooperators offered the following comments:
Prairie Horizon Farm: Strawberry plants appeared to be very healthy right before first harvest. A continued problem, which also took place last year was the plants being weak at the soil line. Are the plants not planted deep enough or is the white on black plastic mulch creating an injury or too much wind? The farm is located in a windy site. They started to spray insecticide for Tarnished Plant Bug (TPB) around mid-August. No apparent injury on fruit from TPB for the remainder of the picking season. Total yield was about half of what it was in 2015. They figured a lot of excessive rainfall created yield reduction. They think the Dubois retractable low tunnel system is an improved system. When the plastic cover did slide off they were always able to put back up with no damage to system. Final comment: They would grow June-bearing strawberries instead of the low tunnel day-neutral strawberry system.
Berry Ridge Farm: The Albion day-neutral strawberry cultivar lacked vigor in the early season and never did recover. Deer moved in and continually browsed on strawberry plants. Low tunnel plastic slid off several times but easy to put back with no damage. Excessive wind and rain continually kept plastic cover off and became frustrating to keep the cover on the hoops. The fruit they harvested was nice and took to farmers market. Yield was down compared to 2015. Final comment: They would rather grow day-neutrals in a high tunnel.
Fairhaven Farm: Kept low tunnel sides down as much as possible to avoid deer browsing. In the early season the plants looked great. They indicated that water needs are not high. Sprayed insecticide from July to early August. No insecticide used after early August with very little if any fruit damage from TPB and Spotted Wing Drosophila. Productivity was excellent from late August – November 10th. Sold everything at market each week. Thinking of a You-pick strawberries with this system next year. Using a whole different mind-set for those people who just want a couple of pints and will pay the higher price.