Will Low Tunnels Provide New Opportunities for Strawberry Production in Indiana? – Facts for Fancy Fruit

Will Low Tunnels Provide New Opportunities for Strawberry Production in Indiana?

Strawberry production in Indiana primarily utilizes the matted row system in which bare root strawberry plants are set in the spring, fruit is first harvested in the second year and plants are maintained for a few seasons. Strawberry production using an annual plasticulture system is popular in the southern states, where strawberries are planted in the fall and harvested in the next spring. In the annual plasticulture system, strawberries have a longer harvest period and produce fruit with better quality. Growing strawberries as an annual crop is a challenge in Indiana. This is because our short fall makes it difficult for plants to reach the desirable size that leads to a sufficient yield in the following spring. This situation can be changed with the use of high tunnels that provide additional heat units and moderate frost protection. In a trial conducted in a 30 ×96 high tunnel at Southwest Purdue Ag Center, strawberries were planted in Sep. 2015. The majority of strawberries were harvested in April and May 2016. A total yield of 1,295 lbs of strawberries were harvested from the 0.07 acre area, which is very promising. However, we realize that space in high tunnel is extremely valuable. We have to consider high tunnel returns on a per square foot, and a per month basis. In this regard, strawberries that take eight months from planting to harvesting may not be the top crop to achieve the best returns. If a grower only has one or two 4-season high tunnels, strawberry is probably not

he top choice of crops.

With these considerations in mind, we initiated a new project to evaluate another system to grow strawberries, the retractable low tunnel system. This system requires an initial investment about one third the cost of a high tunnel.  We planted strawberries on Sep. 13 of this year. The low tunnel was set up on Oct. 6. Eight varieties are being grown side-by-side under low tunnels and the open field. We are going to compare effects of the heat accumulation under low tunnels with open-field on strawberry growth and yield. We will also compare effects of frost protection of traditional straw mulch with fabric row covers in the winter. Updates about the trials will be published on Facts for Fancy Fruit and Vegetable Crops Hotline Newsletters over the next few months. Please follow us to learn more about using the low-tunnel system for growing strawberries in Indiana.

Share This Article
It is the policy of the Purdue University that all persons have equal opportunity and access to its educational programs, services, activities, and facilities without regard to race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, disability or status as a veteran. Purdue is an Affirmative Action Institution. This material may be available in alternative formats. 1-888-EXT-INFO Disclaimer: Reference to products in this publication is not intended to be an endorsement to the exclusion of others which may have similar uses. Any person using products listed in this publication assumes full responsibility for their use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.