Enhancing Strawberry Production by Integrating Rabbit Production to Decrease Fertilizer Use, increase Sustainability and Profit

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2021: $14,909.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2023
Grant Recipient: SLEWZ LLC
Region: Southern
State: Mississippi
Principal Investigator:


  • Fruits: berries (strawberries)
  • Animals: rabbits


  • Animal Production: animal protection and health, manure management
  • Crop Production: high tunnels or hoop houses, nutrient management

    Proposal summary:

    By integrating strawberry and rabbit production, these two individual processes can form a sustainable system to increase the efficiency of natural resource conservation. By converting a waste product such as rabbit manure to an effective renewable nutrient source for strawberry production, an integrated process is created to build a sustainable system.

    The reduced cost of waste removal and the reduced cost of fertilizer usage work together to make both of these productions more economically viable as a farm operation.

    The benefit of cooling by strawberry plant shade and transpiration increases animal wellbeing and ultimate harvest weight and quality.

    The use of free-range colony style rabbits allows for a more sustainable and ethical treatment standard for alternative meat production. Their manure is an excellent option for nutrient source for strawberry production. The average NPK value of Rabbit manure is 4:2:1 (Figure 1). This will be diluted with clear water for application to the strawberry plants.

    By joining these two production systems a combined solution is generated that is cost saving, more sustainable and increases marketability of the product.


    Figure 1: Comparison of average NPK values for animal manures *


    N Nitrogen %

    P Phosphorus %

    K Potassium %

    Rabbit Manure




    Cow Manure




    Horse Manure




    Pig Manure




    Chicken Manure




    Sheep Manure




    *(REF1) Artkinson, J. H., Giles, R. G. and Desjardins, G. T. 1958. Effect of farmyard manure on trace element content of soils and plants grown there on. Plant and Soil, 10: 32–36.; (REF2) https://www.allotment-garden.org/composts-fertilisers/npk-nutritional-values-animal-manures-compost/

    Project objectives from proposal:

    To achieve the best results from the experiment the system will be started with new strawberry plants and a new set of rabbit breeding stock, selected from current breeding stock. The greenhouse and rabbit production will be integrated. Land is set aside next to the greenhouse for rabbit production.

    The soil will be amended to create a sloped area 8’x32’ with compacted earth. The compacted earth will be set at a slope of 5 degrees to allow runoff of rabbit manure and urine. Soil runoff nutrient addition to manure nutrient load will be considered negligible.

    Rabbit manure will be captured in a trough and collected in order to produce manure tea.  Manure tea will be distributed to strawberry plants through a hydroponic system.  Electricity used for running of the hydroponic system pumps will be provided through solar panels as an additional sustainable element of the design.

    Strawberries will be raised in the commercial style vertical trough system. The strawberry plants will be planted six inches apart in the rows of gutters, vertically with a 7-degree slope and a 0.5-inch drainage hole every six inches.  In order to compare the effect of rabbit manure on strawberry production in comparison with conventional fertilizer use, X total troughs will be used in this study with Y receiving rabbit manure tea and Z(equals Y) receiving conventional liquid fertilizer according to production recommendations.  Treatments will be randomly assigned to troughs in order to control for impact of environmental conditions.

    A 256 square foot area, 8’ by 32’ adjacent to the strawberry growing area will house the rabbits. At 10 square feet per rabbit, that allows 25.6 rabbits. For conservative space allotment, 21 rabbits will be used. This is due to our farms findings that decrease population density in free range rabbits decreases pest and injuries as well as increases meat quality and amount.

    Data collected in this project will consist of weekly measurement of strawberry yields as well as weekly recording of produce quality on a 0 to 5 scale.  Rabbit production will be evaluated by monthly evaluation of animal weight and health assessment on a 0 to 5 scale.  Nutrient content of commercial nutrient fertilizer and rabbit manure tea will be evaluated on a monthly basis.  Finally, cost inputs to each system will be compared including materials costs for fertilizer, and labor associated with management of the systems.  Value of production will be evaluated using national and regional average market values.  All data will be evaluated weekly and as season totals using an analysis of variance procedure and means separation. 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.