Everbearing Strawberry Evaluation

PROJECT LEADER(S): Jeff Vance
TYPE OF PROJECT: On-Farm Trial
LOCATION: Mitchell County, NC

IMPACT


Growers in Mitchell County continue to look at the feasibility of alternative crops to tobacco. Presently, county residents must travel sixty miles round trip to purchase fresh strawberries. Some growers have grown matted row strawberries in the past, but our high elevation makes this a challenge due to late spring frost. An on-farm trial was established to evaluate the potential of later-bearing strawberries as a profitable crop for farmers in Mitchell County.


INTRODUCTION

Finding niche or alternative crops that can replace the income provided by burley tobacco continues to be a challenge for farmers and Extension personnel in Mitchell County. Most crops are long-term or do not generate the income that farmers have become accustomed to.

Strawberries are a crop that may have great income potential for farmers in the area, but cold winter and spring temperatures have been a serious hindrance. Many matted row and most annual strawberry varieties begin blooming when we are still experiencing freezing temperatures, and most of our farmers do not have the capability to irrigate sufficiently to prevent crop loss. Black plastic varieties such as Chandler and Sweet Charlie are damaged by cold winter temperatures, even under cover. However, these problems may be avoided through production of everbearing varieties, such as Everest and Seascape. These varieties are planted in early spring and harvested throughout the summer, and are replanted annually.

The objective of this project was to compare the production potential of two everbearing strawberry varieties (Everest and Seascape) in Mitchell County.

METHODS

An on-farm trial was set up to compare the everbearing strawberry varieties, Everest and Seascape. This trial was established on black plastic with drip irrigation. The size of the plot was ¼ acre and was planted on May 20 and 21, 2003. Plants were irrigated regularly throughout the establishment period.

RESULTS

Results were severely limited due to delayed planting and grazing by deer. An excessively wet spring delayed planting by one month. This led to slower establishment and delayed maturity, which increased susceptibility to damage by deer. Although the trial was planted within 100 ft. of the farmers’ house and within 10 ft. of a dog, deer destroyed most of the plants and damaged the plastic.

Only a few plants went undamaged and actually bore fruit. The fruit that was harvested had good quality and taste. One plant that had no damage had twenty blooms on it in early August. Unfortunately, it was not possible to harvest enough berries to estimate potential yield.

CONCLUSION

Everbearing strawberry varieties may have great potential for Mitchell County. Due to the unusually great amount of spring precipitation, the trials were not conclusive this year. It is clear that some type of deer control is necessary during establishment of this crop. Future studies will be implemented with this in mind.

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Updated February, 2005