Exploration of alternative growing media in strawberry production with focus on wood fiber from Norway spruce

T. Woznicki, K. Kusnierek, U. M. Roos, S. Andersen, K. Zimmer, A. Sønsteby
The use of peat as a growing media in horticulture is supposed to be reduced due to negative effects of its production on the environment. Interest in development of alternative growing media is therefore increasing and is enhanced by both political pressure and industry demands. Therefore, the influence of 33 growing media on the performance and productivity of two strawberry cultivars were examined in a polytunnel under Nordic conditions (60.7 N). Alternative substrates including fibers of spruce, birch and flax and coffee grounds were tested standalone or in mixes. Peat and coir were included as controls. Additionally, impregnation of the wood fibers with organic and inorganic substances was examined. All investigated growing media received identical fertigation strategies (EC 1.5). The highest average biomass production was observed for plants grown in bare peat; however, the best yield performance was noted for peat mixed with perlite and for coarse spruce fiber. Strawberries grown in these two best performing substrates showed comparable overall productivity, with 272 and 268 g of berries per plant, respectively. Both peat/perlite mix and the coarse spruce fiber had also a similar weight of berries larger than 25 mm, with 210 and 198 g plant‑1, respectively. Moreover, improvement of the substrate structure by adding perlite or wood chips may have had a pronounced effect on fruiting performance. When compared to peat with added perlite (which gave the highest berry yield in the experiment; 272 g plant‑1), strawberries grown in pure peat produced only 187 g plant‑1. Furthermore, impregnation of spruce fiber with humic acid enhanced fruiting performance by increasing the total yield and number of large berries (≥25 mm). Future prospects for this study include establishment of an optimal structure of spruce fiber substrate suitable for strawberry production and development of the fertigation strategy optimized for the new growing media.
Woznicki, T., Kusnierek, K., Roos, U. M., Andersen, S., Zimmer, K. and Sønsteby, A. (2021). Exploration of alternative growing media in strawberry production with focus on wood fiber from Norway spruce. Acta Hortic. 1305, 15-22
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1305.3
strawberry, growing media, substrate, peat, coir, wood fiber

Acta Horticulturae