Friday, January 31, 2014

2013’s Best ABE Thesis...and I

Since fall of last year I have been working with the IrriGators on the strawberry cold protection study. Now in its third year, this study aims to optimize water-use for freeze protection for crops grown during winter.

The how
Using plots varying in size and impact sprinkler heads varying in water pressure, this project seeks to produce fruit yields similar to standard grower practice while also reducing water-use during frost protection.

Maria measures the plot layout
We began putting the cold protection system together in October, transplanted strawberries soon after and began harvesting in December just before winter break.

Pristine plastic beds with plot sections taped-off

Transplant day

The first fruit appears
The colder the better

Much like many growers across Florida, we live on frost weather reports during the cold season.

Unlike them, however, we relish a deep, lengthy freeze period as these conditions will generate the best data on protection effectiveness.

Maria and Eliza gather flow rate data
Eliza measures impact head rotation rates
The neophyte
Last year graduate student Maria Zamora earned her Masters degree for this research. Her thesis was also recently named best of 2013 for UF's Agricultural and Biological Engineering Department.
Ms. Zamora on master's thesis defense day
However, while she administers to some personal business in Central America, young technician Eliza Breder has been cast into the spotlight and is managing this season’s effort.
Eliza: ready for the Bering Sea
Strawberry errthing!
Rain or shine: temperature data is downloaded
While the freezes this season have been consistent, the most intense arrived in early January. That cold spell punished the fruit and flowers, but in a few weeks we should be harvesting strawberries hand over fist.

See a short video about this project here.