Performance of wood fibre as a substrate in hydroponic strawberry production under different fertigation strategies

T. Woznicki, K. Kusnierek, A. Sønsteby
Hydroponic production of strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa Duch.) in protected cultivation systems using substrates (growing media) is gaining popularity worldwide. Therefore, it is necessary to develop more sustainable growing media alternatives. This study focused on growth performance of strawberry plants grown in wood fibre from Norway spruce (Picea abies (L.) H. Karst.), in comparison to two industry standards (peat and coco fibres). Plug (tray) plants of the June-bearing strawberry cultivar 'Malling Centenary' and bare root (WBH) plants of cultivar 'Sonata' were transplanted into three different growing media: peat (80%) and perlite (20%) mixture, coconut coir (100%) and Norway spruce wood fibre (100%). The plants received four fertigation strategies (various potassium and nitrogen concentrations) from flowering onwards. Throughout the production season ripe berries were harvested and frozen for later analyses of chemical composition. Plant architecture was also recorded after termination of the experiment. The results revealed that the most significant differences among the majority of the fruit and plant parameters were due to cultivar traits. Strawberries grown in wood fibre produced slightly smaller berries with elevated °Brix and dry matter compared to berries from plants grown in peat and coir. This was most likely caused by the common fertigation strategy applied to all substrates. Nevertheless, among the tested fertigation strategies, application of solutions with elevated potassium resulted in the highest sugar accumulation in berries grown in wood fibre substrate. In general, the experiment revealed relatively negligible differences between the growing media, and we therefore conclude that wood fibre from Norway spruce may be a viable alternative as a growing media in hydroponic strawberry production when the fertigation strategy is precisely adjusted.
Woznicki, T., Kusnierek, K. and Sønsteby, A. (2021). Performance of wood fibre as a substrate in hydroponic strawberry production under different fertigation strategies. Acta Hortic. 1309, 289-296
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1309.42
fertigation strategy, Fragaria × ananassa, growing medium, nitrogen, potassium, wood fibre

Acta Horticulturae