Into Sept. we go!
This week will mark 9 consecutive weeks of fruit production from our plots. With temperatures finally moderating in our region, and some actual precipitation (!!), the plants appear to be thriving. Yields are high and fruit quality (size, color, and flavor) is exceptional.
At the start of September we decided to begin harvesting twice per week, Monday and Friday (instead of three times), to provide fruit adequate time to ripen and also to utilize labor wisely. This has not negatively affected fruit quality so far, as our previous Wednesday harvests were always on the lighter side.
In addition to recording fruit yield, we have been conducting storability tests in cold storage to determine if any differences in fruit shelf life exist among treatments. We plan to continue conducting these tests weekly until production slows / stops later this fall. All results: yield, average fruit size, sugar content of fruit, skin color, runner production, shelf life - will be very interesting and we hope to share preliminary findings at the end of our first year when data collection concludes for the winter.
For now, we are concentrated on managing the plants as best we can until temperatures are no longer conducive to fruit production. Mid-August we adjusted our irrigation schedule to three days per week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday) for two hours each day. Fertilization remains at 2.1 lbs N, 0.5 lbs P, 2.0 lbs K per acre per week, through the drip during Monday's irrigation. Plant tissue tests from our plots show fertility is on par with plant requirements. We are happier with this more frequent irrigation schedule, as it provides the plants more consistent water for fruit and plant development.
More updates and pictures to follow! Don't hesitate to contact us with any questions if you are thinking of using this system for your home garden or farm next year.
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: