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Enhancing Strawberry Nursery Productivity Using Early Season Plant and Soil Treatments

     
 

Project Leader: Brian Coleman, Ruby Mountain Nursery, La Jara, CO

Technical Advisor: Rob Davidson, SLV Research Center, CO

Project Year: 2005

picture from: www.images.google.com

Project Summary

The climate of the San Luis Valley allows for premium strawberry nursery stock production with minimal pesticide applications. Unfortunately the same climate also reduces productivity. This project consists of three areas of research to improve early runnering. These areas are planting date and preconditioning, nitrogen application timing, and the use of plastic mulch.

Pre-planting treatments at different planting dates
  1. A set of plants will be left in the greenhouse at a day/night regime of 70 degree F day temperatures and 45 degree F night temperatures with constant supplemental light.
  2. A set of plants will be left in the same greenhouse with no supplemental light.
  3. A set of plants will be greenhouse grown until four weeks prior to planting. These will be moved outdoors and covered when the temperature is lower than 32 degrees F with Styrofoam. This insulates plants up to 12 degrees F.
  4. A set of plants will be grown in a greenhouse for five weeks and then frozen at 29 degrees F until planting.
  5. Dormant plants will be used as a control.
Early Season Nitrogen Application

It is a common practice in Europe to withhold nitrogen before runner production initiates. The rationale is that slight nitrogen deficits elicit runnering to allow the plants to 'scavenge' a larger area for available nitrogen. The practice in Maryland is the exact opposite. They preload the soil before planting with sixty pounds actual nitrogen (in the form of slow-release fertilizer) and thirty pounds solid pellet complete fertilizer. This research will show which, if either, is better for this region.

The Proposed Treatments are:

  1. No fertilization until six weeks post plant.
  2. A 3 and 6 week application of 15 pounds of actual nitrogen per acre, per application.
  3. At planting, and 3 and 6 week application of 15 pounds actual nitrogen per acre, per application.
  4. Treatment 3 plus a 15 pounds per acre actual nitrogen incorporated ammonium nitrate preplant application.
  5. Only the preplant application, no postplant application.
Use of Plastic Mulches
  1. No mulch.
  2. Clear plastic perforated "hot cap" will be applied over nursery stock at planting.
  3. Black, biodegradable plastic mulch applied before planting and holes punched into the plastic will be made with a planting wheel.
  4. A black biodegradable plastic mulch applied before planting and clear perforated roll hot cap is applied post planting.
Colorado State University College of Agricultural Sciences Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture