Proper strawberry farming can help produce nutritious and delicious strawberries. Farmers in the US follow specific steps each year to enhance crop yield and meet the fruit’s consistent market demand. Here are some of the processes that help bring strawberries to your table:
Strawberries are available in numerous cultivated varieties, each with distinct climate requirements. Farmers choose cultivars based on their desired harvest period and market demand. The cultivars are available in three main types, including June-bearing, everbearing, and day-neutral.
June-bearing varieties produce large, flavorful berries during the summer. They include Chandler, Allstar, and Cabot. Everbearing varieties bear crops in mid-spring and late summer or early fall. They include Ozark Beauty, Fort Laramie, and Rockill. Day-neutrals are regarded as improved forms of everbearing varieties, as they produce more consistent crops during the summer and aren’t influenced by day length. They include Tristar, Albion, and Seascape. Some farmers interchange the varieties throughout the seasons to meet market demand.
Farmers conduct site and soil preparation to improve the chances of harvesting healthy strawberries. The fruits typically do well in well-drained fertile soil, making loamy soil an ideal choice. Farmers with clay and sand soil also produce strawberries, which comes with extra preparation. They add rich compost to the soil to improve its drainage and fertility.
Preparation also involves assessing a site’s sun exposure and soil pH. Strawberries typically require 6-10 hours of sunlight daily and a soil pH level of 5.5 to 7. Farmers clear out shades and adjust pH before planting to provide these conditions. They may add lime to raise the pH if it’s too low or elemental sulfur if it’s too high.
Farmers also prepare for planting by creating raised beds. Strawberries grow well in raised beds because they provide better drainage and prevent weeds in surrounding soil from reaching the plants. They also give farmers more control over the soil they use to grow strawberries. Ideal strawberry-growing soil includes composite or aged manure for nutrients, topsoil, and additions like rice hulls or pumice for aeration. Raised beds also make it easier for farmers to tend to their crops as they don’t need to bend as much as they would caring for crops on even ground.
Farmers can grow strawberries from seeds, bare root plants, or runners. Seeds are best grown in spring, bare roots toward the end of winter and runners during summer. Runners sprout from existing plants, so they develop the fastest. Seeds take the longest to grow as they first have to germinate. Bare root plants are best grown in late winter as the plants are still dormant at this time. They grow faster than seeds but take longer than runners.
Strawberries produce runners when growing, so when planting, farmers leave space between the plants and between rows to provide sufficient room for sprawling. Spacing is also necessary for adequate airflow and minimizing the risk of spreading disease among the plants. Farmers apply layers of mulch to help maintain moisture, control weeds, and prevent pests and pathogens that may be present in the soil from coming into contact with their fruits. This weed control and pest management method is common among organic strawberry farmers as it minimizes the need for herbicides and pesticides.
Farmers add irrigation systems after planting to make sure crops receive sufficient water. Those focused on sustainable strawberry farming choose drip irrigation systems as they pour water directly over the roots, minimizing water wastage.
Strawberry Farming Requires Careful Planning
Proper variety selection, field preparation, and planting are key steps in strawberry farming, as they can impact crop yield. The higher the yield, the more the harvest and supply, allowing consumers to enjoy the ever-sweet fruit year-round. Farming practices may continue to evolve as demand rises and more farmers adopt sustainable growing practices.