Strawberry is a highly popular fruit in local food markets. Yet, the number of strawberry farms and total production acreage is decreasing in much of the North Central Region (NCR). The high production risks related to recent extreme weather conditions across the region has made traditional matted-row strawberry production exceptionally challenging. As a result, farmers are looking for less risky and economically feasible alternative production systems. Therefore, we will conduct research to optimize three tunnel-based strawberry production systems, i.e., the soil-based high tunnel system, table-top high tunnel system, and open-field low tunnel system. Each system will have a unique research focus; we will evaluate planting date, winter environmental management, cultivar selection, supplemental pollination, plant spacing, etc. In addition, we will develop an integrated pest management (IPM) plan targeting two-spotted spider mites and aphids, previously identified as the most destructive insect pests in high tunnel systems, and an emerging strawberry disease that may be misdiagnosed and poorly understood. Sustainable strategies including host plant resistance, natural enemies and organic biopesticides will be the focus of our IPM plan development. The project team includes extension specialists from Indiana and Ohio, and a farmer who has extensive experience in growing strawberries. In addition, collaborating farmers in Indiana and Ohio will conduct on-farm trials investigating production systems and generating economic data in on-farm situations. Based on the production and economic data generated, detailed budgets will be developed for each of the production systems. A comprehensive and interactive production guide will be produced that will provide readily available information for farmers who are interested in tunnel-based strawberry production. In addition, this project will lead to field days, workshops, growers’ conference presentations, and multiple newsletter articles. Results of research trials will be published in three to four peer-reviewed journal articles that are expected to enhance general knowledge of strawberry production and pest management. We anticipate that this project will encourage NCR farmers to adopt economically feasible and environmentally friendly strawberry production practices, which will increase farm income, reduce pesticide usage, and increase overall viability of small and diversified farms in the NCR. Further, an increased supply of strawberries in local markets will provide consumers with a popular, healthy and fresh fruit.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Optimize strawberry production practices in the NCR using tunnel-based production systems.
- Develop sustainable integrated pest management plans for a diversity of production systems.
- Establish scale-appropriate budgets for the strawberry production systems.
- Produce and distribute a comprehensive production guide for growing strawberries in the NCR using tunnel-based systems.
Learning – improved knowledge of NCR farmers regarding strawberry production, specifically alternative production systems, strawberry physiology, and pest management.
Action – implementation of economically feasible and environmentally friendly strawberry production systems tailored to farmers’ unique situations.
System – increased farm income and enhanced diversity in local food systems.