High tunnels and greenhouses could help strawberry growers avoid the increasing hassles of outdoor production. Protected growing produces good yields, improves climate control, reduces disease issues, and simplifies labor scheduling. “You don’t have to worry about the weather knocking out a day that you had planned to do something,” said Kathleen Demchak, a Penn State Extension small fruit specialist.
Demchak spoke Tuesday during the University of Maryland Extension virtual fruit meeting. In the Mid-Atlantic, strawberries are still generally grown outdoors. But some growers are shifting at least a little of their berry acreage under high tunnels, where many tomatoes, raspberries, and other high-value crops are already grown.
Erratic weather could drive more strawberry growers to seek shelter for their crops. In some recent years, Demchak said, big temperature swings in the spring have caused strawberries to come out of dormancy early only to be hit with a late frost. And disease problems seem to be mounting.
“The bottom line is when you have that plant material in more fields, there are more chances to pick up diseases,” Demchak said. The rapid transportation of plant material appears to have spread a virulent strain of neopest, a strawberry disease that used to be just an occasional nuisance.
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