This section will be completed with the final report
Strawberries are in high demand but there is low supply in West Virginia so this is an excellent crop for farmers to consider adding to production and worthy of study. Planting recommendations are limited to a narrow window in August, which is quite early and overlaps with other crops requiring intense labor, such as sweet corn. Pushing back planting dates for strawberries in West Virginia would be optimal to decrease weed and deer pressure, as well as runner development. Our desire is to determine a later viable planting window for West Virginia to increase success for existing strawberry producers and encourage new start up strawberry farms.
With small farms having limited space, time, labor and resources, strawberry production presents a unique challenge. The fragile strawberry is susceptible to severe weather conditions, pests and constant threat from deer intrusion. The consumer demand for local strawberries is outstanding and never satisfied, making this an attractive agricultural product with unlimited possibilities worthy of study.
Sunset Berry Farm and Produce plans to aid in the determination of optimum planting dates using different cultural practices that will allow producers to push back planting season from summer to fall, after summer crops have been harvested. Fall planting will decrease field time, resulting in less weed growth, exposure to pests and deer. By eliminating or drastically reducing current threats that interfere with successful production, strawberries can become a significant agricultural product with excellent return for West Virginia farmers.
* Three successive plantings will be made on September 15, October 1, and October 15th.
Plantings will be made in both high tunnel and field settings.
* Floating row covers will be used, black plastic in an attempt to achieve required 600 hours at 50
degree temperatures. A control group will also be estabilished in both settings using no row covers
or black plastic mulch.
*less weed pressure
*reduce or even eliminate deer damage due to plants being covered and shorter growing time
*planting dates for strawberries may be delayed 14 too 30 days to allow an additional crop to be
produced in this area as well as making more time available to harvest other high value crops
*strawberry planting does not need to occur until after peak summer season and all summer crops
have been harvested
1000 strawberry plants of the Chandlar variety were sown on August 23, 2017. Three additional test plots of the Chandlar variety were planted every two weeks thereafter on September 5, September 20 and October 4, 2017.
The control group was planted mid August per current recommendation to acquire 600 growing hours of 50 degree temperatures. The test plots planted September 5th, September 20th and October 4th would be covered with 1.2 ounce frost blankets when temperatures drop below 50 degrees.
Unfortunately, temperatures were above normal and plants achieved the required 600 growing hours at 50 degrees without the use of alternative warming methods. The August 23 group achieved the required 600 hours of 50 degrees on September 18, 2017. This group did well, as expected, but had excessive runner and weed growth, which required hand removal on three occasions. The plants achieved 4-5 branch crowns. The September 5, 2017 test plot did well and gained 600 growing hours on September 30, 2017. They also had excessive runner development, which were removed twice, and had 4-5 branch crowns. The September 20, 2017 test group had good growth and achieved 600 growing hours on October 19, 2017 with 3-5 branch crowns but with a more desirable and minimal runner development. The October 4, 2017 test plot gained 600 growing hours on November 11, 2017. Although this group also achieved the required 600 growing hours at 50 degrees, the plants did not flourish, remained small with a less than desirable branch crown development of 0-1, but without runner development.
What we have learned thus far:
The September 20, 2017 test plot appears to be on track to produce a great crop of strawberries and required less physical labor for runner and weed removal and at this stage appears to be the ideal planting date.
Day length hours, and not just temperature, is theorized to play a significant role in branch crown development.
Chandlar strawberry varieties are known for the ability to add an additional branch crown when temperatures begin to warm in early spring so there still remains hope to achieve fair to good production for the later planting date.
All plants are sown in beds of plastic mulch for this project.
Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary
A farm tour and field day was conducted on November 8, 2017. Both project technical advisors were in attendance, as well as 3 NRCS staff, 2 USDA plant research staff and 1 public education middle school teacher. 20 local farmers and 15 middle school students also attended.
The group toured lettuce and strawberry high tunnels, as well as the strawberry field production, including the research plots. The group observed the progress of the various strawberry plots and was briefed on the details of the research project. There were other strawberry growers in attendance and each of them expressed interest and a desire of being informed of the end results of the research.