Low tunnel covering and microclimate, fruit yield, and quality in an organic strawberry production system

Heidi C. Anderson, Mary A. Rogers, Emily E. Hoover

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations

Abstract

Consumer demand for local and organic strawberries (Fragaria Xananassa) is increasing. Growers who can meet this demand have a competitive edge in the direct-to-consumer market. Innovations in strawberry production for northern climates offer new opportunities for growers to meet the demand for local organic strawberries. Typically adopted for season extension, the use of poly-covered tunnels for crop protection provides other benefits including protection from adverse weather. Low tunnels are easy to install, low cost, temporary protective structures that are well-adapted for annual day-neutral strawberry production, and they are more space efficient than high tunnels for these low-stature crops. A range of specialty tunnel plastics that modify and diffuse light are available, but there is little information on how these influence strawberry plant growth and performance in the field. Our objectives were to determine the effects of experimental ultraviolet blocking and transmitting plastics on light and microclimate in low tunnel environments and assess differences in fruit yield and quality in the day-neutral strawberry cultivar Albion in an organic production system. This research was conducted on U.S. Department of Agriculture-certified organic land over 2 years, in 2016 and 2017. We found that ultraviolet intensity and daily light integral (DLI) were lower in covered plots than in the open field. Maximum daily temperatures were slightly higher in covered plots. Both ultraviolet-blocking and ultraviolet-transmitting plastics improved marketable fruit yield compared with the open-field control. Strawberries grown in the open-field treatment were lower in chroma than covered plots in 2017, and there was no difference in total soluble solids between treatments in either year. Low tunnel systems allow for increased environmental control and improved fruit quality and are well-adapted for day-neutral organic strawberry production systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)590-598
Number of pages9
JournalHortTechnology
Volume29
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
1Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota, 1970 Folwell Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55108 We thank Jared Rubinstein, Nathan Hecht, Dr. Andrew Petran, Ignasi Riera Vila, Matthew Gulli-ckson, Aimee Foster, Truong Nguyen, Samantha Villella, Connor Mikre, and Sadie Green for laboratory and field support; Steve Poppe for field preparation and for low tunnel installation; Dr. William D. Hutchison for providing guidance and reviewing this work; Dr. Kathy Demchak, Dr. Eric Hanson, and the Tunnel Berries research team for materials, advice, and support; and Dr. Daniel Peck of BioWorks and Dr. H. Brett Highland of Certis USA for providing me with biopesticide samples. Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative, award number 2014-51181-22380.

Funding Information:
We thank Jared Rubinstein, Nathan Hecht, Dr. Andrew Petran, Ignasi Riera Vila, Matthew Gulli-ckson, Aimee Foster, Truong Nguyen, Samantha Villella, Connor Mikre, and Sadie Green for laboratory and field support; Steve Poppe for field preparation and for low tunnel installation; Dr. William D. Hutchison for providing guidance and reviewing this work; Dr. Kathy Demchak, Dr. Eric Hanson, and the Tunnel Berries research team for materials, advice, and support; and Dr. Daniel Peck of BioWorks and Dr. H. Brett Highland of Certis USA for providing me with biopesticide samples. Funding for this research was provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative, award number 2014-51181-22380.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, American Society for Horticultural Science. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Controlled-environment agriculture
  • Fragaria Xananassa
  • High tunnels
  • Ultraviolet light

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