Strawberry Farming – A Step by Step Guide
The following information is all about Cultivation Practices of Strawberry fruits and Strawberry Farming methods. Strawberry is one of the best fruits that the farmer can get good profits on it.
Strawberry production scenario in India:
Strawberry (Fragaria vesca) is an important fruit crop of India and its commercial production is possible in temperate and sub-tropical areas of the country. but varieties are available which can be cultivated in the subtropical climate. In India, it is generally cultivated in the hills. Its main center of cultivation is Nainital (district) and Dehradun in Uttar Pradesh, Mahabaleshwar (Maharashtra), Kashmir Valley, Bangalore and Kalimpong (West Bengal). In recent years, strawberry is being cultivated successfully in plains of Maharashtra around Pune, Nashik and Sangali towns. The strawberry is the most widely adapted of the small fruits. Strawberries are grown throughout Europe, in every state of the United States, as well as in Canada and South America. The wide variation in climates within these regions and the wide adaptation of the strawberry plant permit harvesting and marketing, the fruit during the greater part of the year.
Economic Importance of strawberry production:
Strawberry is rich in Vitamin C and iron. Some varieties viz. Olympus, Hood & Shuksan having high flavor and bright red color are suitable for ice-cream making. Other varieties like Midway, Midland, Cardinal, Hood, Redchief, and Beauty are best for processing.
Suitable Climate and Soil for Strawberry Plantation:
- Strawberry grown best in a temperate climate. It is a short day plant, which requires exposure to about 10 days of less than 8 hours of sunshine for the initiation of flowering. In winter, the plants do not make any growth and remain dormant. The exposure to low temperature during this period helps in breaking the dormancy of the plant. In spring when the days become longer and the temperature rises. The plants continue to grow and start flowering. The varieties grown in milder subtropical climate do not require chilling and continue to make some growth during winter.
- From the standpoint of response to the length of the light period, strawberries are placed in two groups: (1) varieties that develop flower buds during both long and short light periods, the overbearing varieties and (2) varieties that develop flower buds during the short light periods only, most commercial varieties.
- Strawberry requires a well-drained medium loam soil, rich in organic matter. The soil should be slightly acidic with a pH from 5.7 to 6.5. At higher pH (acidic) root formation is very poor. The presence of high calcium in the soil causes yellowing of the leaves. In light soils and in those rich in organic matter, runner formation is better. Strawberry should not be cultivated in the same land for a number of years. It is preferable to plant it in the green manured field. Alkaline soils and soils infected with nematodes should not be considered for strawberry farming and must be avoided.
Varieties of Strawberries available:
A large number of varieties are available. For the hilly areas, varieties Royal Sovereign, Srinagar and Dilpasand are suitable. Some of the introductions from California, such as Torrey, Toiga, and Solana may prove even more successful. The variety found successful in Bangalore has been named Bangalore and which has performed well at Mahabaleshwar also. For the north Indian plains, Pusa Early Dwarf which has dwarf plants, large firm wedge-shaped fruits, has been recommended. Another variety with rich aroma but softer fruits is Katrain Sweet. Some of the varieties found successful in warmer parts of the U.S.A. are Premier Florida-90, Missionary, Blackmore, Klonmore & Klondike. Some of these may prove successful for cultivation in Indian plains.
Propagation of Strawberry Plants:
Propagation is done by means of runners that are formed after the blooming season. The plants may be allowed to set as many runners as possible but not allowed to set any fruits. All the plants with a good root system should be utilized to set a new plantation. Given the best attention and care, a single plant usually produces 12 to 18 runners.
Best Planting Season for Strawberries:
The ideal time of planting runners or crowns in hilly areas is September-October. If the planting is done too early, plants lack vigor and result in low yield and quality of fruits. If planted very late, runners develop in March and crops are light.
Runners are uprooted from the nursery, made into bundles and planted in the field. These can be kept in cold storage before transplanting. The soil should be frequently irrigated to reduce water stress in the leaf. Defoliation suppresses the plant growth, delays fruiting and reduces yield & quality
Planting of Strawberries:
- In strawberry farming, the land for strawberry planting should be thoroughly prepared by deep ploughing followed by harrowing. Liberal quantities of organic manure should be incorporated in the soil before planting. Strawberry can be planted on flatbeds, in the form of hill rows or matted rows, or it can be planted on raised beds. In irrigated areas, plantings on ridges are advised. In Mahabaleshwar, the usual practice is to plant on raised beds 4 x 3 meters or 4 x 4 meters.
- In strawberry farming, planting distance varies according to variety & type of land. A spacing of 30 cm. x 60 cm. is usually followed. In the model scheme, a spacing of 30 cm. x 30 cm. with a population of 22,000 plants per acre has been considered which was commonly observed in areas covered during a field study. from row to row. In the hills, Transplanting is done in March-April, September-October, but in the plains, the months of January-February may be utilized for this purpose. At Mahabaleshwar, Tamilanadu, normally strawberry is planted during November-December.
- The strawberry plants should be set in the soil with their roots going straight down. The soil around the plant should be firmly packed to exclude air. The growing point of the plant should be just above the soil surface. During planting, the plants should not be allowed to dry out and should be irrigated immediately after planting.
Plant care in Strawberry production:
The roots of strawberry plants spread out close to the surface. Therefore, the soil should be well supplied with moisture, and hoeing should be done lightly and young plantation is kept weed free.
Horticultural practices of the strawberry crop:
In cold climatic conditions, the soil is covered with mulch in winter to protect the roots from cold injury. The mulch keeps the fruits free from soil, reduces decay of fruits, conserves soil moisture, lowers soil temperature in hot weather, protects flowers from frost in mild climates and protects plants from freezing injury in cold climates. Several kinds of mulches are used, but the commonest one is straw mulch. The name strawberry has been derived from this fact. Black alkathine mulch is also used to cover the soil. It saves irrigation water, prevents the growth of weeds and keeps the soil temperature high.
Irrigation requirement of strawberry plantation:
Strawberry being a shallow-rooted plant requires more frequent but less amount of water in each irrigation. Excessive irrigation results in the growth of leaves and stolons at the expense of fruits & flowers and also increase the incidence of Botrytis rot. Since strawberry is relatively shallow-rooted, it is susceptible to conditions of drought. Planting early in autumn allows the plants to make good vegetative growth before the onset of winter.
However, in this case, it is necessary to ensure that newly planted runners are irrigated frequently after planting, otherwise, the mortality of the plants becomes high. During September and October, irrigation should be given twice a week if there is no rain. It may be reduced to weekly intervals during November. In December and January, irrigation may be given once every fortnight. When fruiting starts, the irrigation frequency may again be increased. At this stage, frequent irrigation gives larger fruits.
Manures and fertilizers applications for strawberry plants:
Intercultural operations of the strawberry crop:
The field is kept weed free during the first season by harrowing and plowing, applying herbicides or plastic sheet. Inter-cultural practices are continued until the straw mulch is applied.
Plant protection measures in the strawberry orchard:
Pests and Diseases of Strawberry:
- Red spider mites and cutworms are important pests of strawberry. The mites can be controlled with 0.05 percent Monocrotophos + 0.25 percent wettable sulfur. The cutworms must be controlled by dusting the soil before planting with 5 percent chlordane or Heptachlor dust at the rate of 50 kg per hectare and mixing it thoroughly in the soil by the cultivator.
- The two commonest diseases of strawberry are red stele, caused by the fungus Phytophthora fragariae and black root rot. The remedy for the former lies by raising resistant varieties like stelemaster and for the latter to maintain the vigor of the plants and rotate strawberry with other crops like legume vegetables (beans, peas, etc). Strawberry also suffers from virus diseases known as a yellow edge, crinkle, and dwarf. Raising of a strawberry nursery in the hills helps to check these. Strawberry also throws some chlorotic plants, which result from genetic segregation. These should not be confused with virus affected plants and should be rogued out.
Harvesting and Yield of Strawberry farming:
- Strawberries are generally harvested when half to three-fourths of the skin develops color. Depending on the weather conditions, picking is usually done on every second or third day usually in the morning hours. Strawberries are harvested in small trays or baskets. They should be kept in a shady place to avoid damage due to excessive heat in the open field. The fruit ripens from late February to April in the plains and during May and June at high elevations like Mahabaleshwar, Nainital, and Kashmir. For the local market, the fruit should be harvested when fully the ripe stage, but for transport to distant markets, it should be harvested when still firm and before color has developed fully all over the fruit.
- Harvesting should be done preferably daily. Since fruit is highly perishable, it is packed in flat shallow containers of various types (cardboard, bamboo, paper trays, etc.) with one or two layers of fruits. Harvesting should be done early in the morning in dry conditions. Washing the fruit bruises it and spoils its lustre.
- The yield of strawberry farming varies according to season and locality. A yield of 20 to 25 tons per hectare is excellent, though yields up to 50 tons per hectare have been reported under ideal conditions.
- Plants start bearing in the second year. An average yield of 45-100 quintals/ha. is obtained from a strawberry orchard. However, an average yield of 175-300 q./ha. may be taken from a well-managed strawberry orchard.
Post-Harvesting Care and Marketing:
In your strawberry farming, care should be taken as strawberries are highly perishable and hence a great deal of care in harvesting and handling as well as its marketing also requires to be organized very carefully.
Read: How to Grow Swiss Chard.
- Grading: Fruits are graded on the basis of their weight, size, and color.
- Storage: Fruits can be stored in cold storage at 320C up to10 days. For distant marketing, strawberries should be pre-cooled at 40C within 2 hrs. of harvesting and kept at the same temperature. After pre-cooling, they are shipped in refrigerated vans.
- Packing: Packing is done according to the grades for long distance markets. Fruits of good quality are packed in perforated cardboard cartons with paper cuttings as cushioning material. Fruits of lower grades are packed in baskets.
- Transportation: Road transport by trucks/lorries is the most convenient mode of transport due to the easy approach from orchards to the market.
- Marketing: Majority of the growers sell their produce either through trade agents at village level or commission agents at the market.
Read: Dragon Fruit Farming.
Strawberry farming is fun and profitable. Keep growing fruits!.