Texas growers, researchers work to expand strawberry industry

11/19/2013 05:18:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

Courtesy Texas AgriLifeResearchers and growers are working together at seven demonstration sites in Texas that examine strawberry production, high tunnels and plasticulture.Texas A&M AgriLife researchers want to breath new life into the state's strawberry industry with the help of a grant from the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative.

Russ Wallace, an Extension Service vegetable specialist in Lubbock, is leading the statewide collaborative effort, according to a news release.

It will address grower, retailer and consumer concerns through five regional teams who will examine strawberry production issues.

The project will emphasize expanding strawberry production by using high tunnels and plasticulture technology in under-served regions.

High tunnels involve hoops sunk in the ground over which plastic has been stretched. They resemble plastic-covered Quonset huts and are sometimes called a poor man's greenhouse because they help prolong growing seasons

Plasticulture involves covering raised beds with stretched plastic to warm the soil, retain moisture and suppress weed growth.

At an initial meeting in July in College Station, growers faculty and industry members met to discuss the project.

More than 30,000 plants already have been put in the ground at demonstration sites across the state.

The demonstrations include seven high tunnel trials as well as trials looking at pH manipulation, irrigation, shading, black plastic mulch and drip irrigation, pest management, organic practices, and greenhouse salinity.

Texas A&M AgriLife in Prairie View, one of the demonstration sites, is chronicling its efforts on a Facebook page.

You do not need to have a Facebook account to view the page.

The $158,391 Texas A&M grant is part of a much larger $3 million donation from the Walmart Foundation that funded the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative. It is administered by the University of Arkansas.

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