Low tunnels for season extension of day-neutral strawberries in the US Pacific Northwest

J. Fernandez-Salvador, E. Chernoh, A. Pheil, B. Renne
Acreage grown for processing strawberries in Oregon has declined over the past two decades, while the price and demand for local, fresh strawberries has increased. Season extension techniques can complement this shift in the strawberry market by expanding the harvest window. Our two-year study (2019-2020) will evaluate the use of low tunnels for season extension and their effects on plant growth and yield for day-neutral strawberry cultivars in Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Three commonly grown day-neutral cultivars, ‘Albion’, ‘Seascape’ and ‘Sweet Ann’, were grown under low tunnel structures covered with either solid 4-mL clear polyethylene film with UV stabilizers or slitted 0.8-mL clear polyethylene film and were compared to open bed conditions with no tunnel cover. Containerized strawberry transplants grown from bare-root plants in a greenhouse were transplanted into raised beds mulched with black plastic. The plants were managed using certified organic production practices. Preliminary results from the 2019 season are presented here. Average minimum, maximum, and mean weekly air and soil temperatures were higher under the tunnels than in the open beds throughout the season. Main-season marketable yield was not different between the low tunnel treatments, but late-season marketable yield was greater for solid than slitted covers, and both were greater than open beds (44.3, 17.4, and 2.5 g plant‑1, respectively; P<0.001). ‘Seascape’ produced the greatest marketable yield among the three cultivars during the main season but had the lowest marketable yield during the late season. Runner production was greater under solid plastic than open beds for ‘Albion’, with no difference for ‘Seascape’ or ‘Sweet Ann’. Using low tunnels may provide an opportunity for growers to extend the harvest and increase yield for fresh market production. Future research will evaluate the advantages of using tunnels in early season production.
Fernandez-Salvador, J., Chernoh, E., Pheil, A. and Renne, B. (2021). Low tunnels for season extension of day-neutral strawberries in the US Pacific Northwest. Acta Hortic. 1309, 269-276
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1309.39
strawberries, season extension, Oregon

Acta Horticulturae