Growing Innovation: Issue 12, July 27, 2016

Cold-stored runners to extend season for strawberry growers

With early-season strawberries attracting a higher price in the market, being able to get earlier fruit yields is a win for growers – and recent research has shed light on one approach to making these earlier yields more achievable.

With a focus on growing strawberries north of Perth, the study has revealed the potential of using cold-stored runners in this area.

Simply planting traditional runners earlier in the season to try to get earlier fruit yields is a strategy that doesn’t necessarily work very well, said project leader Dr Scott Mattner, from the Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority. “This is because strawberry transplants (runners) can be immature if they’re dug too early in the nurseries, and may fail to establish or die when planted. This is especially the case for specific varieties of strawberry, such as Fortuna.”

The new approach, however, means runners can be dug in the nurseries when they are fully mature, then cold-stored until planting in the fruit industry the following year.

Dr Mattner and his team conducted field trials at Wanneroo in Western Australia, where they measured fruit yields and revenue from fruit through the season. “The results showed that cold-stored transplants of specific day-neutral varieties Portola and San Andreas could increase early (April/May) and late (October/November) season fruit yields, compared with traditional leaf-on runners of short-day varieties, such as Fortuna,” he said.

“Over the whole season, cold-stored runners produced up to 50 per cent more fruit and resulted in 45 per cent higher revenues – $2.40 more per plant – than leaf-on runners.”

While the cold-stored runners didn’t produce significant amounts of fruit during the middle of the season (July-August), the leaf-on runners fruited heavily during this time. “Therefore, coordinated plantings of cold-stored runners and leaf-on runners could offer growers north of Perth with the prospect of more even fruit production and income through an extended growing season (April–November),” said Dr Mattner.

Dr Mattner said the study’s results couldn’t be replicated in trials in other regions of the country, such as in Caboolture in Queensland. “This shows that regionally-based research projects are important and can contribute to overall gains in industry productivity,” he said.

The research project was funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia with co-investment from Strawberry Growers Association of Western Australia, Toolangi Certified Runner Growers Co-operative and the Victorian Strawberry Industry Certification Authority, and funds from the Australian Government.

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