Hydroponics an Option for Growing
Strawberries Without Methyl Bromide
By Doris Stanley
November 16, 1998
To grow strawberries without methyl bromide, farmers can go back to the
ancient practice of hydroponics. Agricultural Research Service scientists
found that their hydroponic strawberry plants are as productive as plants grown
in soil fumigated with methyl bromide.
Strawberry growers worldwide fumigate soil with methyl bromide before
planting to control soilborne insects, diseases and weeds. The chemical is
essential to get high yield and high quality fruit. But its been named an
ozone depletor; production and use will be phased out over the next few years.
So growers need an effective alternative. Otherwise, annual production of
field-grown strawberries will be cut dramatically in California and Florida,
the major producing states. Hydroponics is an option, according to the
scientists at the ARS Appalachian Fruit Research
Station in Kearneysville, W.Va. ARS is USDAs chief research agency.
From hydroponically grown plants, Kearneysville horticulturist Fumiomi
Takeda harvested ripe fruit twice a week from December to May, the period when
shipments of California strawberries slow down. Fruit quality and taste were
excellent. He controlled the few foliage pests with natural agents.
Initial setup costs for hydroponic farming are high. But growers may recoup
them by producing a higher value product, increasing yields and spending less
money on pests and diseases. Environmental factors dont affect greenhouse
crops, and hydroponically grown berries reduce labor costs. Further study is
needed on strawberry varieties other than the two California ones used in the
This story is featured in the November Agricultural Research magazine.
It also is available on the World Wide Web at:
Scientific contact: Fumiomi Takeda, Appalachian Fruit Research
Station, USDA-ARS, Kearneysville, WV 25430-9425; phone (304) 725-3451, X-212,
fax (304) 728-2340, email email@example.com