Strawberry Renovation – Facts for Fancy Fruit

Strawberry Renovation

This was a very short year for strawberries due to the record warmth in May. By now, most harvest is over. As soon as harvest is done, it’s time to begin the renovation process. Matted row strawberry plantings must be renovated each year to establish new crowns for the following year’s crop. For best results, renovation should be started immediately after the harvest is completed to promote early runner formation. This is especially important in the northern part of the state with its shorter growing season. The earlier a runner gets set, the higher its yield potential. Growers should begin renovation as soon as the last marketable berries are harvested. Delaying renovation is one of the most common mistakes growers make. Renovation should be completed by the end of July in normal years. The following steps describe renovation of commercial strawberry fields.

  1. Weed control: Post emergent application: Annual broadleaf weeds can be controlled with 2,4-D amine formulations. Check the label as only a few products are labeled for use on strawberries. e.g. Amine 4 [Dimethylamine salt of 2,4-D (3.74 lb./gal.)] at 2 to 3 pts/acre in 25-50 gallons of water applied immediately after final harvest. Be extremely careful to avoid drift when applying 2,4-D. Even though the amine formulation is not highly volatile, it can vaporize under hot, humid conditions and cause damage to sensitive plants a considerable distance from the site of application. Some damage to strawberries is also possible. Read and understand the label completely before applying 2,4-D amine. If difficult to control broadleaves such as Canada thistle is a problem, Spur (clopyralid) can be applied either broadcast or spot treatment. If grasses are a problem, sethoxydim (Poast 1.5 EC) or clethodim (Select 2 EC) will control annual and some perennial grasses. However, do not tank mix these materials and 2,4-D. See the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide and the product label for rates and especially for precautions.
  2. Mow the old leaves off just above the crowns 3-5 days after herbicide application. Do not mow so low as to damage the crowns.
  3. Fertilize the planting. Generally, nitrogen should be applied at 25-60 lbs/acre, depending on vigor. It is more efficient to split nitrogen applications into two or three applications at regular intervals, rather than apply it all at once. A good plan is to apply about half at renovation and half again in late August when flower bud development is occurring. A soil test will help determine phosphorus and potassium needs, but foliar analysis is a more reliable measure of plant nutrition. For foliar analysis, sample the first fully expanded leaves following renovation.
  4. Subsoil: Where picker traffic has been heavy on wet soils, compaction may be severe. Subsoiling between rows will help break up compacted layers and provide better infiltration of water. Subsoiling may be done later in the sequence if crop residue is a problem or if soils are too wet at this time.
  5. Narrow rows: Reduce the width of rows to a manageable width based on your row spacing, the aisle width desired, and the earliness of renovation. A desirable final row width to attain at the end of the season is 12-18 inches. Wider rows lead to low productivity and increased disease pressure. This means that rows can be narrowed to as little as 6 inches during renovation. Use a tiller or cultivator to achieve the reduction. Since more berries are produced at row edges than in the middle, narrow rows are superior to wide rows. Narrow rows will give better sunlight penetration, better disease control, and better fruit quality.
  6. Cultivate: Incorporate the straw and other plant material between rows and throw a small amount of soil over the row by cultivation. Strawberry crowns continue development at the top, and new roots are initiated above old roots on the crown, so 1/2 – 1 inch of soil on the crowns will facilitate rooting. This also helps cover straw and old strawberry leaves in the row and provides a good rooting medium for the new runner plants.
  7. Weed control: Pre-emergence weed control should begin immediately. There are more options today than in past years. Chateau, Dacthal, Devrinol, Prowl H2O, Sinbar and Spartan are labeled materials. See the Midwest Fruit Pest Management Guide and check the product labels carefully. Devrinol must be incorporated by irrigation, rainfall, or cultivation to be effective. Rate and timing of Sinbar or Prowl H2O application is critical. If regrowth has started at all, significant damage may result. Some varieties are more sensitive to Sinbar than others.
  8. Irrigate: Water is needed for both activation of herbicides and for plant growth. Don’t let the plants go into stress. Ideally the planting should receive 1 to 1-1/2 inches of water per week from either rain or irrigation.
  9. Cultivate to sweep runners into the row until plant stand is sufficient. Thereafter, or in any case after early September, any runner plant not yet rooted is not likely to produce fruit next year and can be removed. Coulter wheels and/or cultivators will help remove these excess plants in the aisles.
  10. Adequate moisture and fertility during August and September will increase fruit bud formation and improve fruit yield for the coming year. Continue irrigation through this time period and fertilize if necessary. An additional 20-30 pounds of N per acre is suggested, depending on the vigor.


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