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Extending local strawberry production using low tunnels

Grant Program: OAR
Agricultural Sector: Fruit
Region: Statewide
Project Duration: 4/1/2015 - 3/31/2017
Amount Awarded: $129,880.00
Lead Organization: Cornell University
Project Leader: Marvin Pritts
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Proposal Abstract

New varieties (large-fruited, flavorful day neutral strawberries), new technologies (low tunnel kits with infrared diffusing plastics), and increasing familiarity and comfort with fertigation (including plasticulture) have now positioned entrepreneurial growers to make significant strides in providing local, flavorful strawberries from early June through early November in places such as New York. We propose to 1) demonstrate the impact of combining these technologies on strawberry production and harvest season at five locations in NY, 2) determine the optimal planting date that maximizes production in our short growing season, and 3) provide growers with educational opportunities through participation in on-farm trials, field meetings, workshops, webinars, and newsletters. Preliminary work has demonstrated that these varieties are adapted and can be productive in the Northeast, producing large, flavorful fruit well into November.  However, optimization of the system (including planting date) is critical before the system can be widely recommended. The outcome of this project will be an increased ability to produce and profit from growing strawberries, a greatly enhanced ability to compete with lower quality fruit from California and Mexico, and more local fruit for consumers over an extended season.

Final Report Summary Statement

A major limitation for strawberry growers is the short season when berries are typically available to sell. The first strawberries ripen in mid-June and harvest ends near July 4th. Rainy weather during harvest, especially on weekends, can have a significant negative financial impact on growers, particularly if they market through pick-your-own. It would greatly benefit growers if berries could be protected from the weather and produce over a longer season, into the summer and even into late fall, as this would open up new markets.

Our project demonstrated that this can be economically achieved using a combination of day neutral cultivars and low tunnel technology. The quality of the fruit produced can be outstanding. Demonstration plantings were implemented on farms across the state, hundreds of growers were exposed to the technology, and a production guide and webinar were developed to extend the technology to growers.

Project Impact Data

Producers Participating: 3

Producers Advising: 10

Articles/Publications: 1

Presentations: 8

Workshops: 4

Total Producers Engaged: 400

Leveraged Funds: $60,000.00

Documents and Photos

Planting date trial in Ithaca.jpg
Two varieties of day-neutral strawberry planted every two weeks in Ithaca, New York. Hoops are installed to support the plastic that will cover them once fruiting begins.
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