Evaluation of soil-less systems for strawberry transplant production in Australia
Currently the strawberry runner industry in Victoria, Australia relies on mixtures of methyl bromide (MB) and chloropicrin (Pic) to disinfest field soils for production of high-health, bare-rooted transplants (runners). However, MB is being phased-out under the Montreal Protocol. Soil-less production techniques avoid the need for soil disinfestation, and may offer an alternative. This paper reviews the technical and economic benefits, and challenges of soil-less technologies for strawberry runner production in Australia, including the use of: plug plants, soil-less substrates, micro-propagation, hydroponics, aquaponics, aeroponics and production from seed. Overall, these methods are currently more costly than bare-rooted runner production in MB/Pic-treated soils, and are estimated to increase the price of runners by 4.4- to 15-fold. It is concluded that these technologies have the greatest potential for application in the early generations of runner multiplication, and may assist in reducing the number of generations needed to produce certified runners. The development of plug plant technologies, integrated with micro-propagation is considered the highest priority for evaluation in future research in the Australian runner industry, with particular emphasis on developing more cost-effective production systems and consistent yields in the subsequent fruit industry. In the short-term, this research also needs to be integrated with the development of alternative soil fumigants to replace MB.
Mattner, S.W., Horstra, C.B., Milinkovic, M., Merriman, P.R. and Greenhalgh, F.C. (2017). Evaluation of soil-less systems for strawberry transplant production in Australia. Acta Hortic. 1176, 53-64
strawberry nursery, strawberry runner, methyl bromide, plug plant, micro-propagation, hydroponics