Researchers with the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station succeeded in quadrupling the length of New Hampshire’s strawberry growing season, according to a statement from the researchers.
The strawberry season in New Hampshire typically lasts four to six weeks, but last year researchers at the University of New Hampshire harvested strawberries for 19 consecutive weeks.
UNH graduate student Kaitlyn Orde, who is working with one of the researchers on the project. said strawberries are a popular product in the Northeast, but their growing season is short here. Once it’s over, buyers have to get their strawberries elsewhere.
“Most New Englanders look forward to strawberry season because regionally produced strawberries are delicious,” Orde said. “Unfortunately, though, this season is very brief, limiting the period in which our regional producers are able to meet consumer demand for the fresh fruit. A longer strawberry season is good for both grower and consumer.”
The UNH researchers used low tunnels of sheets of different types of plastic about three feet high, to cover the strawberry crops, according to Orde.
Orde said the low tunnels protect crops like strawberries from disease by keeping out precipitation, as fruit rot thrives in moist environments.
Researchers found low tunnels significantly increase the percentage of fruit that can be sold from a crop of strawberries from about 70 to 83 percent.
In addition to testing how different plastics play a role in the quality of the berries they cover, the UNH team wants to determine the potential yield of day-neutral strawberries compared to June-bearers.
Orde said June-bearers are more common in New Hampshire, but day-neutrals can produce fruit within two months of planting and have a longer growing season. June-bearers take about a year to produce fruit.
When grown in conjunction with June-bearers, day-neutrals can help lengthen the strawberry season for growers in the Northeast, Orde said.Alyssa Meyers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @ameyers_.