Optimizing plant density in strawberry cultivation in Martell Valley (South Tyrol, Italy)
After finishing my Ph.D. under the supervision of Professor Carlo Andreotti at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano (Italy), I joined the working group “Berries and Stonefruits” at the Laimburg Research Centre (Italy). My academic experience, including the internship done at the Sant’Orsola agricultural cooperative (leader of the Italian berries market) gave me a broad background of knowledge about strawberry cultivation. Considering the large number of issues and challenges that berry producers are facing, scientific research should provide valuable and affordable solutions, whenever possible. My research activity is currently mainly focused on strawberry cultivation and can be divided into variety comparison tests and agronomical trials (suitable planting density and planting materials, evaluation of different cultivation systems, solutions to soil-borne diseases). My research on planting density was presented at the IX International Strawberry Symposium. Optimizing profitability is a challenge that strawberry farmers face to remain competitive. Within this framework, optimum plant density plays a central role in strawberry cultivation. Increasing plant density is considered the main way to increase yield per hectare. Nevertheless, this improvement is attributed to the greater number of plants per area planted and not to a higher yield per plant, which could often even suffer a reduction. According to our preliminary results, wide row spacing allowed for more balanced plant growth in terms of leaf and root system with positive consequences on fruit production. Moreover, fruit from the low plant density treatment showed a significantly higher sugar level and a higher color index (more densely red) than in fruits from the high plant density treatment. Finally, farm profit must consider the costs (especially related to the plant material and harvesting) that are certainly higher under the high plant density than under the low-density regime.
Sebastian Soppelsa won the ISHS Young Minds Award for the best poster presentation at the IX International Strawberry Symposium, which was held virtually in Italy in May 2021.
Sebastian Soppelsa, Berries and Stonefruits Research Group, Laimburg Research Centre, Laimburg 6, 39051 Pfatten/Vadena (BZ), Italy, e-mail: Sebastian.Soppelsa@laimburg.it
The article is available in Chronica Horticulturae