Demand for local, organic fruits is increasing throughout the US. For strawberries in the Midwest it is difficult to meet this demand with a concurrent supply; this is due to the short harvest window of June-bearing fruit grown in the region. Organic production of day-neutral strawberries with vastly extended harvest windows is growing in the Midwest, and has potential to meet this increased demand for local and organic fruit available almost year-round. However the practice is still in its infancy. Little is known on how to properly and sustainably produce day-neutral strawberries over an extended season exposed to a longer buildup of pest, disease and weather pressures unique to this region. We propose a comparison of the yield, quality and harvest windows of two strawberry management practices: a raised bed, plasticulture system managed with a traditional organic spray regimen in the open field, versus a similar raised-bed system equipped with exclusion netting to provide a physical barrier for pests and allow reduced chemical inputs. A thorough yield and quality comparison will allow us to determine if a protected culture system can produce profits and harvest seasons high enough to justify the increased initial costs.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Compare the yield, quality, harvest window and profitability of an exclusion vs organic spray system for day-neutral strawberry production
- Evaluate and discuss the ecological and economic impact of each system by recording the spray regimen of the pesticide treatment and comparing its cost vs the installation of exclusion netting
- Continue TCBC's mission of open-source farming by sharing project findings via conference presentations, website blog updates and social media interaction