As we reach the end of June we are excited to report that our plants are looking great! In the last few weeks they have taken off, and we have been collecting vigor data, monitoring for pests, weeding, and managing flower trusses and runners.
Flower Truss Update: Since our last post we have finished removing the first flush of flower trusses. Recommendations for how long to remove trusses vary to some degree, from about 2-4 weeks. Since our plants are looking rather robust this year, we removed them for three solid weeks after they emerged, ending June 1.
Runner Removal: Our first round of runner removal was conducted June 16 on the plants in our low tunnel material study. For this experiment, we will be removing runners twice/month.
For our second experiment, a variety trial, they will be removed only once/month, which we believe may be more representative of what is possible on a busy farm. We have not yet removed runners from the variety experiment, but will by the end of the month. We have recorded definite differences in early-season vigor among the six varieties in our experiment, and are excited to see how they differ in runner production, yield, and fruit quality, as the season progresses.
Low Tunnel Management: Managing the low tunnels has been relatively stress-free this year. We attribute this to some modifications we made in their construction from last year (stay tuned for a low-tunnel management factsheet from UNH Extension!!). Even the 60' tunnels have been without trouble since we tightened the bungee elastics and added grounding stakes to both sides of the low tunnel hoops a few weeks ago.
Occasionally, during rain, the plastic sides will lower themselves, which isn't necessarily a bad thing during precipitation! However, because of warm days, they should be raised back up to the eave of the hoop by the next morning to ensure good ventilation and prevent high temperatures within.
While we still maintain that low tunnels require a low level of active management (checking on them after rain, strong wind, etc)... constructing them well at the start of the season can save significant time throughout, and with each passing wind or rain storm, we gain confidence in their ability to weather the elements.
BELOW - Cultivars included in our Variety Experiment. Left - Right: Seascape, Albion, San Andreas, Aromas, Portola, and Monetary.
Visit the Sideman Lab website to learn about the other neat projects we are working on!
This project is funded by the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station and TunnelBerries, 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: