Question of the Week
Answer: I am pleased to provide you with information
regarding organic greenhouse strawberry starts.
Many strawberry growers rely on starts that are certified disease free,
as strawberries tend to be a disease and pest magnet. However, as you
indicated you might be able to serve a niche to organic strawberry
growers in your region.
There was a study funded by the Southern Region Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education (SSARE) grant on the topic on producing organic
strawberry plugs. The link below is to the full report for this study,
in which the authors discuss methodology, fertilizer and potting mixes.
This should be a helpful guide for you to determine the types of
materials and methodology you will need to get started.
Title: Developing a system to produce organic plug transplants for organic strawberry production
A farmer in Virginia has developed a system without greenhouses that is
inexpensive. There is a report about the grower's costs, materials and
methods from the Vegetable Growers News available online: VIRGINIA GROWER DEVELOPS LOWER COST STRAWBERRY PLUG PRODUCTION SYSTEM Vegetable Growers News November-December 2000, Vol. 7, No. 6
By: Charlie O'Dell, Extension Horticulturist; Virginia Tech
In both of these cases the growers bought certified disease free runners
from a service in Canada that starts the runners. If you are interested
in producing organic runners, this will require significantly more
start-up and productions costs.
A study in New Zealand looking for a commercially viable production
system for organic strawberry runners is discussed in a Horticulture
Society research paper. The researchers recommended the enhanced curtain
system as the most suitable for organic production systems based on
disease and pest problems, sanitation, and number of runners produced.
They described the curtain system, as "mother plants" that are grown on
benches, and runners are allowed to fall down off the benches. Runners
are harvested and propagated under mist to produce plug plants. The
enhanced curtain was similar, but the first two runners are potted into
growth substrate using PB3/4 bags and placed onto the bench next to the
In the study they make the following recommendations, for quality indoor
runner production under organic conditions:
• High level of sanitation such as UV resistant net curtaining (or
similar product) for insect proofing; white hydroponic plastic (or
similar product) for covering of the soil and keeping the tunnel house
• For the enhanced curtain system, PB5 bags or similar sized growing
containers for strawberry mother-plants with PB3/4 bags for potting the
first runners – alternatively a larger trough can be used for holding
both mother and first runner plants.
• Single shelving (from inert material for ease of cleaning) at 1-1.5 m
height for adopting a curtain system.
• Collection and re-cycling of drainage-water and/or adjusted irrigation
management, which reduces the risk of leaching.
• Hot compost (± vermicast) as the basic growth substrate, with the
option of adding a pro-biotic (such as Bokashi) for improved plant
• Constant pest and disease monitoring of runner plants is important to
maintain high quality standards.
Ed. G. Waite. 2006. Development of a Commercially Viable System for
Organic Strawberry Runner Production. Proc. Vth Int. Strawberry
Symposium. Acta Hort. International Society for Horticulture Science.
Charlie O'Dell. 2000. Virginia
Grower Develops Lower Cost Strawberry Plug Production System.
Vegetable Growers News. November-December 2000, Vol. 7, No. 6
Cantliffe, D. et al. 2004. Developing a system to produce organic plug
transplants for organic strawberry production. Sustainable Agriculture
Research and Education Project #GS02-013.
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