Arizona project explores hydroponic strawberry production

12/06/2013 09:56:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

hydroponic strawberriesCourtesy University of ArizonaThe desert climes of Arizona seem like an unlikely place for strawberry production, but a University of Arizona plant sciences professor wants to change that.

Chieri Kubota is leading a group trying to perfect a greenhouse hydroponic system that would allow growers to produce strawberries in the off season, according to a news release.

She borrows from her experiences growing up in Japan, where strawberries are grown during the winter in greenhouses.

Trying to find literature on the subject is tough since so little has been published.

Mark Kroggel, a horticulturist, is working with Kubota to develop an under-the-bench fog system that releases humidity at night so the strawberries are dewy moist at dawn.

The system is turned on for five minutes at a time, three times per hour, for three hours.

They are using three California cultivars and are trying to regulate the speed of growth. Under the right conditions, strawberries growing slower accumulate more sugar in the fruit.

Growing strawberries hydroponically also is more difficult than tomatoes and lettuce.

The researchers have found so far that the crop is high maintenance and low yielding.

But they're not giving up. They recently imported varieties from Japan, which were bred with flavor in mind.

The plant material is being cleaned up and will be used in the greenhouse next year.

The project is one of 18 being funded by the Walmart Foundation's National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative Grants Program.

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