GAINESVILLE, Fla. – A new e-book from the University of Arkansas System features University of Florida scientists’ quest to establish a Florida organic strawberry industry.
A chapter titled “Organic open-field and high tunnel strawberry cropping systems for long-term viability of the southeastern industry” examines the participation of five Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences faculty in the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative sponsored by the Walmart Foundation.
Carlene Chase and Xin Zhao, associate professors in horticultural sciences; Oscar Liburd, professor in entomology and nematology; Zhifeng Gao, associate professor in food and resource economics and Mickie Swisher, associate professor in family, youth and community sciences are all principal investigators on the research project outlined in the chapter.
The focus of the first year of the project has been to determine how well cover crops suppress weeds and nematodes and their potential for improving soil quality in organic strawberry production. The team evaluated eight strawberry cultivars in two open- field studies in systems with four off-season cover crops, and 12 cultivars and advanced selections in a high tunnel study for yield and quality. Researchers monitored pests and beneficial insects and mites and employed management strategies appropriate for organic systems. They also used an online survey to gauge public opinion on attributes of strawberries and willingness to pay for such attributes.
UF/IFAS researchers found that growers have options when it comes to rotating cover crops with strawberries using organic production methods. Along with their collaborator, Sanjun Gu of North Carolina A&T State University, they reached more than 200 growers through trainings at five workshops and four field days, and project farmers are growing 10 acres of organic strawberries.
For its part of the 13-state project, UF/IFAS is also working with Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. and Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc.
To read the 60-page book, “Moving the Needle: Accomplishments of the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative 2013-2014,” go to http://strawberry.uark.edu/nssiweb.pdf.
Writer: Brad Buck, 352-294-3303, firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: Mickie Swisher, 352-273-3538, email@example.com
Cutline: Organic farmer Jordan Brown assesses an open-field experiment at the Plant Science Research and Education in Citra, Jan. 28, 2014. UF/IFAS scientists are participating in a national project to establish an organic strawberry industry in several states, including Florida. Their work is featured in a new e-book from the University of Arkansas System.
Credit: Javier Lopez, UF/IFAS.