Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Strawberry fields forever!

The new year begins at the Plant Science Research and Education Unit (PSREU) in Citra, FL, with harvest work on graduate student Maria Zamora’s project researching the optimization of sprinkler irrigation for cold protection in strawberries.



Year two
Now in its second year, preparation for this study was initiated last fall. In late October, the overhead sprinkler irrigation system used for cold protection and plant establishment was re-erected. 

Impact sprinklers used in overhead irrigation
Soon after, the planting beds, plastic and drip line irrigation were laid out by the PSREU field crew. Beds in place, final rotation rate tests on the impact sprinklers were conducted to ensure similar application patterns.
From left: Sara Wynn and Maria Zamora
Proper overhead irrigation is critical not only for cold protection, but also for plant health during the establishment period following transplant to the field.

This study is investigating how reducing sprinkler water pressure for cold protection, and thereby reducing water-use, will affect fruit yield in strawberries.
Pressure on the main line
The research area is composed of fifteen plots, each one a rep of several different treatments: no-irrigation, standard practice, reduced pressure, and a treatment where the sprinklers are in closer proximity to the plant rows. 
From front to back: plots 11 to 15
Bare-root transplanting

Transplanting day: out of the cold and into the cold
Transplanting work took place in mid-November.

Kizzy Boyer preps the rows

New transplants wilting in the sun
The transplanting was followed by approximately ten days of overhead irrigation to reduce plant wilting during root formation.


Although the plants looked a little worse for wear after transplanting, they recovered nicely just in time for the Central FL temperature drop.


Step 1: pollinate


Step 2: fruit!
Freeze!

12/22/12: impacts at dawn
By the end of November the freezes began. Cold protection in several plots is controlled by an on-site weather station that remotely fires the irrigation when temperature drops to freezing.

On-site weather stations collecting data and assisting in cold protection
The other plots function off a simpler automated cold protection set-up. FAWN alerts keep everyone informed as to dates and severity of upcoming freezes.

In late December I had the unexpected good fortune of welcoming a freeze in the wee hours of the morning.

My task: gather pressure readings at various points in the overhead system to confirm the plots were watering as expected.
 
Harvest


Fruit harvesting began early this month. Twice a week, fruit is harvested by plot number and location within the plot, then weighed as marketable and unmarketable (cull). Harvests (and a few more freezes?) will continue until mid-March.
Sara on scale duty
Pies, anyone?
The strawberries from these early harvests are especially sweet. On my next South Florida visit, there will be samples in tow!
Sweet: a king's ransom in strawberries!

1 comment:

  1. Man, wish I had some of those berries!!!!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete