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Improving the consistency of fruit quality in substrate-grown June-bearer strawberry varieties

Research

SF 152 - Improving the consistency of fruit quality in substrate-grown June-bearer strawberry varieties

Start Date: 
01/04/2014
Completion Date: 
31/03/2017
Project Leader: 
Dr Eleftheria Stavridou, East Malling Research
Code: 
SF 152

 

Industry representative: Laurie Adams

HDC project cost: £96,999

 

The Problem:

 

Intensive substrate strawberry production systems require careful management to ensure quality is predictable, consistent and controllable. Nevertheless, the consistency of supply of high quality berries varies between growers and between successive harvests and 32,000 tonnes of fruit picked each year is unmarketable, due to soft fruit, skin crazing and poor shelf-life. More precise management of water and fertiliser inputs could be expected to improve the consistency of fruit quality and reduce fruit waste by at least 30%. Irrigation scheduling to substrate crops is often driven by the perceived need to maintain substrate EC within an ‘acceptable’ range but there is a need to identify substrate ‘ballast’ ion concentrations that limit nutrient uptake, fruit yields and quality in newer varieties such as ‘Sonata’ and Vibrant’ before precise fertigation regimes that match demand with supply and optimise consistency of fruit quality can be developed. The proposed research would also ameliorate the impact of poor quality irrigation water (high background EC) on fruit quality.

 

Aims and objective:

 

Project aim(s):

 
1) To improve consistency of fruit quality and reduce unmarketable/waste fruit by 30% in ‘Sonata’ and ‘Vibrant’
2) To quantify the effects of over-watering and over-feeding on fruit yields and quality
3) To increase resource use efficiency in substrate soft fruit production
 
Project objective(s):
 
1) To quantify the effects of over-watering and over-feeding on consistency of fruit quality in ‘Sonata’ and ‘Vibrant’
2) To improve consistency of fruit quality by optimising water and fertiliser inputs
3) To identify coir ‘ballast ion’ concentrations that limit fruit size and quality
4) To manipulate N nutrition to improve tolerance to high coir EC values
5) To develop new guidelines for low-input growing systems to improve on-farm resource utilisation, reduce waste and help to maintain grower margins
6) To communicate, demonstrate and deliver ‘best practice’ into the soft fruit industry
 
The successful completion of all objectives is essential to achieve the project aims. The Project team’s experience of growing strawberry in HDC (SF 107, SF 136, and SF 83) and commercial projects will help ensure that all objectives are met in full.