Submitted to: HortTechnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/1/2002
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: Interpretive Summary: The impending elimination of methyl bromide as a soil fumigant is forcing a reexamination of strawberry production practices. The Beltsville small 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 evaluate the effectiveness of this system, results from five 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, or fungicide application. Yield differences between the systems varied with cultivar. 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 research will be used by extension and outreach professionals in the eastern and mid-western United States to advise strawberry growers on improving management practices.
Technical Abstract: In north 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 developed in California. One distinct advantage of the hill system is the degree of weed and pest control provided by the combination of plastic mulch and methyl bromide fumigation. However, the imminent loss of methyl bromide is forcing a reexamination of strawberry cropping systems. The USDA small fruit research program at Beltsville, Md. has been developing an "advanced matted row" production system that incorporates beneficial aspects of both hill and traditional matted row systems. This system utilizes a matted row-type culture, established on raised beds with sub-surface drip irrigation and 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. A comparison of five years of yield and field performance data from the advanced matted row system and a regional adaptation of the hill system showed comparable yields, but later production and slightly lower fruit quality in the advanced matted row system. The advanced matted row system may provide an alternative to annual hill for sustainable strawberry production.