Is it okay to propagate your own strawberry plug plants? – Facts for Fancy Fruit

Is it okay to propagate your own strawberry plug plants?

Strawberry plug plants that have active growing root systems are easier to establish than bare-root plants. Interest in growing strawberries using plug plants and plastic mulch is growing.

Strawberry plug plants are produced from the runner tips of mother plants. In commercial production, mother plants may be grown in climate-controlled greenhouses or open fields in a colder climate. High temperatures and long days favor runner development; thus, runner production is typically in the summer. Plug producers in our region may receive runner tips from runner producers further north. The runner tips are planted in 50-cell trays with a moist growing medium. The plants require frequent misting, especially in the first few days until roots start to grow.

Farmers have asked me whether it is okay to produce their plug plants by harvesting runner tips from established strawberry fields. Technically, this is doable as long as a misting system is available and farmers have the time and space to produce the plug plants. Farmers may also consider doing that because their favorable cultivars may not be available in plug plant forms, and/or it may allow them to plant earlier than purchasing plug plants. However, two things are crucial for folks who want to propagate their own plants.

Firstly, the patent. Recently released strawberry cultivars are patented. These cultivars cannot be propagated without a license agreement with the patent holder, even for small acreage use. Varieties such as Albion, San Andreas, AC valley Sunset, Galletta, Malwina etc. are still in the patent-protected period. It is illegal to propagate cultivars that are still on patent.

Secondly, disease control. It is almost impossible to ensure disease-free of runners harvested from plants used for fruit production in the field. In commercial runner tip production, mother plants are grown for producing runners not fruit. They are grown either in greenhouses or fields and with strict disease control. Highly destructive strawberry diseases could show on daughter plants from diseases-infected mother plants. Furthermore, the high humidity condition in growing plug plants is prone to disease development. In commercial plug production, fungicide is periodically applied which may not be feasible for a small-scale system.

Because of the aforementioned reasons, folks should be particularly cautious when considering propagating their own plug plants.


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