The traditional June strawberry season has recently come to an end in New Hampshire, but here at UNH our day-neutral varieties are just starting to ripen!
While we wait to begin harvesting, we have been adding fertilizer weekly and irrigating as needed. In Durham, we were lucky enough to received about 1.75" of rain July 9-10, so we have not needed to irrigate in the past week or so, aside from fertigation. The tunnels are holding up very well in the rain, only accumulating water here and there, and nothing significant, so we have found them very easy to manage in this sense. We have not yet lowered the sides during any weather events, but the plastic tunnels have still been keeping the plants and developing fruit underneath much drier than the treatments without any low-tunnels over them.
Data is being collected on plant vigor and runner production for each treatment (mulch color/plastic type combination). Runners have been removed twice now: on 6/28 and 7/12, and will continue to be removed every two weeks for the duration of the season. We remove them by hand by pinching the runner or by using a pair of clippers to detach the runner close to the base of the plant. Some runners can be somewhat tough and lignified and therefore difficult to sever without risking injuring the mother plant, so In these cases clippers work best. We estimate it takes about 8-10 seconds per plant to very thoroughly remove runners, including the not-immediately-visible ones. But if data were not being collected it may even move faster.
The purpose of removing runners to ensure energy is put into fruit production, not vegetative growth. The reason we are counting runners when they are removed is to determine if mulch type/color and low-tunnel cover treatment affects the quantity of runners being produced by the plant. If they do, a strategy for decreasing labor costs may be to use a system which suppresses runner production. But this remains to be determined!
Visit the Sideman Lab website to learn about other projects we are working on!
This project is funded by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and Tunnel Berries, a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture Specialty Crops Research Initiative grant titled "Optimizing Protected Culture for Berry Crops" in collaboration with the following universities: