Learn to Cash in on Growing Strawberries
Strawberries are always a big hit with customers at local spring farmers markets with demand greater than supply most seasons. Production practices adopted by area farmers, and researched by the Ohio State University, have produced yields in excess of 20,000 pounds per acre. In a 2014 survey conducted by Ohio State University, Ohio strawberry farmers reported receiving over $3 per pound at retail markets. With potential gross incomes greater than $60,000 per acre, strawberries may be a high value crop option for area farms.
Strawberry growers that are able to harvest the earliest crops often have the marketing edge. Traditionally Ohio growers have produced strawberries using the matted row or ribbon row production methods which consist of June bearing varieties. The Ohio State University Piketon Research & Extension Center has researched and identified a strawberry production technique to help growers harvest a crop up to four weeks earlier, the plasticulture strawberry production system. For those willing to make the investment in time, management and resources, the strawberry plasticulture system may be a good choice for some farms. Strawberries are increasingly being planted in the fall on black plastic mulch covered raised beds as a way to extend the harvest and marketing season up to a month earlier than those grown using the matted row technique, thus capturing more profit from the high demand for local early harvested strawberries. One of the main advantages of this system is a potential earlier harvest providing a competitive edge in the market place relative to traditional matted row strawberry production systems. Other potential advantages include higher yields, cleaner and larger berries, better weed control, enhanced fruit quality, less disease and increased harvest labor efficiency.
Strawberries are a very labor intensive crop requiring stoop and hand labor to harvest fields every two days at peak harvest. However, strawberry harvesting may be easier and more automated in the future? The Ohio State University is working with a Springboro based company to explore the potential of an automated harvesting robot that will be able to pick strawberries 24 hours a day, reducing the need for human harvesters. Adev Automation teamed up with Ohio State Business Development Specialists, Agricultural Engineers and Horticulture Researchers in 2014 to test a prototype of a strawberry picker that detects if a strawberry is ripe and automatically harvests it. This strawberry harvester will be showcased at an upcoming strawberry field day to be held at Piketon, Ohio.
If you would like to learn more about strawberry production or for reports from past years strawberry research trials conducted by OSU Extension contact Brad Bergefurd, Bergefurd.firstname.lastname@example.org or call 740-354-7879.