Maximizing Strawberry Production
April 17, 2023
What is the yield and revenue potential of strawberries?
I find strawberries to be a very responsive and rewarding crop to work with. They have tremendous potential: we know from past experience that 2 quart per plant and $100,000 per acre is possible if God provides His blessings, the weather cooperates, and we pay attention to detail. Of course, not everyone achieves this. In fact, very few do. But I am of the persuasion that if you are serious about it and willing to pay attention to detail, that you can be one of them.
First, it’s important to have the vision. While vision is never enough, it is certainly the precursor for getting things done. If your goal is to produce 2 quart per plant, I would suggest that you make this your five year goal. We all need goals, but we also need to remember that success usually doesn’t come before hard work.
Proper preparation is always important. We should start with a cover crop before planting strawberries. The cover crop should include mustard which helps prevent some of the strawberries soil-borne diseases. Then of course, we want to start with healthy plants, and ensure that they have the right nutrition in the fall, as this is a critical time. Especially critical are calcium and nitrogen as these help to build a strong and healthy crown that can send out more shoots and fill out more fruit the next spring.
Then in the spring, when the plants are starting to come out of dormancy, they need a lot of calcium and nitrogen for energy. Calcium is actually the kingpin of growth minerals. An adequate supply of calcium ensures that the plants will have healthy and stocky growth, which is exactly what we want for high producing strawberries. As far as the nitrogen goes, we see the best response when this nitrogen comes from amino acid or protein forms of nitrogen. More specifically, we go up to 10 pounds of an amino acid nitrogen product per week in the drip, and some can be applied in the foliar as well. We want to see the plants get at least 12 inches tall, with dark green, healthy foliage, and a decent amount of berries. An excessive amount of berries can be a problem because the plant probably won’t have enough energy to fill them all, then you end up with smaller berries, which is never fun.
One way to visually determine if plants have enough energy is to check out the berries that are produced on the same node. Some crops do this more than others. We are used to tomatoes having three, four, or more fruit per cluster. Well, strawberries sometimes have two or three on a cluster, or node. Whenever this happens, whether it be tomatoes or strawberries, or any other crop, we want all the fruit on the same cluster or node to be the exact same size because this indicates that the plant has enough energy.
What I am saying is that you want to monitor this, and if they are not the same size, the plants probably need more nitrogen, phosphorus, or potassium. All minerals are important, but these tend to supersede the others as far as impact on yield, as long as they are provided in the right form.
Once the berries are sizing, potassium becomes extremely important. We find that pushing potassium and nitrogen, with some boron, produces the largest fruit. So don’t be afraid to push the potassium and nitrogen in this stage. If you are unsure how much, do a sap test.
In summary, we want to see you get a healthy crop of strawberries or whatever other crop you are growing. Paying attention to the details is what pays off.Source: Melvin Fisher | Sponsored by Keystone Bio-Ag LLC