USDA study results encourage wider strawberry window
The fruit are planted beneath long plastic sheets that sit on support hoops about 30 inches above the soil bed, protected from rain and damaging infrared and UV light.
The study has also found the system can capture warmth during the cooler spring and fall seasons. All these factors combined mean the fruit can start earlier than the usual mid-May beginning and continue through the summer and fall rather than ending in mid-June.
The project involves geneticcist Kim Lewers, horticulturalist John Enns and support services staffer George Meyers, who have been researching the method at the Agricultural Research Service’s (ARS) Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland.
By protecting the fruit from rain, tunnels can minimize the incidences of Botrytis, which thrives in cool wet conditions, and anthracnose, which is fostered by hot and wet conditions.
Lewers said high tunnels were also used by growers but could be problematic because humidity was higher in the tunnel, causing more Botrytis and powdery mildew.
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