Blankets help keep strawberry plants warm during cold winters

05/08/2014 10:18:00 AM
Vicky Boyd

strawberries on plasticultureCourtesy Ohio State UniversityOhio State Universities looked at using frost blankets as well as plasticulture (pictured) to help extend the strawberry season.Blankets don't just keep people warm during cold winter nights—they also keep strawberry plants warm.

Those are the findings of research conducted by Ohio State University's College of Food, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Small-fruit researchers examined combinations of materials and timed applications of freeze blankets on strawberries, according to a news release.

Current row cover recommendations may be effective, but they don't maximize winter plant protection. In addition, the heavier weight materials may reduce sunlight transmission and, therefore, crown development and yields.

Bergefurd and his group examined several different materials and weights as well as sequential application timings compared to the standard single fall row cover application to find the optimum system.

Some plants overwintered with minimal signs of injury, despite this year's polar vortex.

The researchers had tested the blankets during the past two years, but mild winters really didn't put them to the real test.

This year, though, the blankets proved their worth.

“So the polar vortexes the region experienced this winter were great for the research project to see how well these blankets work," horticulturist Brad Bergefurd said in the release. "Visually, we’ve seen good results although we haven’t started harvesting yet. But visually we can see how they overwintered, and the crops look pretty good.”

Bergefurd will presenting the group's findings during a strawberry production workshop, from 6-9 p.m., May 22, at the OSU South Centers, 1864 Shyville Road, Piketon. Registration is $15 and includes a light meal and handouts.

The meeting also will cover plasticulture, where plastic mulch is stretched over beds to warm the soil and suppress weeds. The system is commonly used in California.

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