Submitted to: North American Strawberry Conference Proceedings
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: January 15, 2001
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: The elimination of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant in the near future, reexamination of strawberry production practices are needed. The Beltsville fruit research program has developed a new method for growing strawberries which incorporates positive attributes of the annual hill or plasticulture system with those of the traditional matted row approach. This new 'advanced matted row' system utilizes raised beds, sub-surface drip irrigation, and a cover crop-residue mulch to address pest management issues. To evaluate the effectiveness of this system, results from 4 years of variety trials conducted in this system were compared to results from similar trials conducted in the annual hill system. All of these trials were conducted in the absence of methyl bromide fumigation, and fungicide and insecticide application. Advanced matted row was compared to the annual hill systems on the basis of yield, harvest season, and fruit quality. Although the annual hill system produced an earlier harvest of slightly higher quality fruit, these differences may not justify the increased management costs and risks associated with annual hill production. Advanced matted row may provide a sustainable alternative for strawberry production in the mid-Atlantic region. This information will be of value to growers and extension personnel in devising best management practices for strawberry production in temperate climates.
In eastern North America, strawberries traditionally have been grown in the matted row production system, but interest is increasing in the annual hill or plasticulture system used in California and Florida. One distinct advantage of annual hill is the weed and pest control provided by the combination of plastic mulch and methyl bromide fumigation. However, the sustainability of this system has been questioned. Sustainable methods are needed for managing insect, pathogen and weed pests in strawberry. An approach we refer to as "Advanced Matted Row" was developed in an effort to incorporate beneficial aspects of both annual hill and traditional matted row systems. This system includes matted row-type culture, but on raised beds with sub-surface drip irrigation and an organic mulch. The mulch is the residue of a killed cover crop, that fixes some nitrogen and provides an economical, biodegradable mulch for suppressing weeds and reducing erosion. Data from four years of variety trials were used to compare this advanced matted row system to annual hill. The Hill system generally gave earlier production of slightly higher quality fruit. However, yields were genotype dependent, suggesting a need to select varieties adapted to the production system. Whether or not these differences in yield and fruit quality justify the additional establishment costs of the hill system was not determined.