1) SMALL FRUIT IRRIGATION - As we look at both the 2016 and 2017 seasons, it’s clear the impact water levels can have on crop yield and size. Consistently, overhead irrigation is a critical component for frost protection on strawberries. As you look at your irrigation practices on strawberries from post-bloom through harvest, depending on soil type, plants respond best to 2 inches or more per week. During harvest, berry crops require continuing high levels of irrigation to maintain berry size. Growers using drip irrigation daily are benefitting from the effect of maintaining good moisture levels and evaporative cooling. Drip irrigation is also beneficial in fields where difference in elevation results in wet fruit from puddling due to uneven water distribution. An additional benefit is the ability to inject fertilizer to “spoon feed” the plants. As many head into the winter season, protection of irrigation equipment from winter damage is important. Your system should be parked in a safe location away from potential wind, rodent and tree damage. All parts of the system, including underground lines should be drained. Trickle and drip lines not covered by plastic, plant material or mulch stand less winter rodent damage. Winter meetings and trade shows are a great opportunity to visit with irrigation system vendors.
2) PEST CONTROL UPDATES -
Phytophthora in Raspberries. With many areas of the East Coast and Mid-West subject to extensive wet periods over the spring and summer months, we are getting calls regarding phytophthora symptoms in numerous raspberry plantings. When considering new plantings for 2018, remember cultural practices to control phytophthora including planting on well-drained sites. Planting on raised beds will significantly reduce the incidence of the disease. The height, width and shape of the beds affect the degree of preventative action, with height being the most important factor. Creating waterways to remove or redirect water, or preventing water to collect in pockets, will all reduce incidence of the disease.
Flower Thrips in Strawberries. This berry season, many growers once again saw crop damage due to Flower Thrip infestations. Flower Thrip damage is very similar to Tarnished Plant Bug, where fruit are misshapen, damaged or ‘Cat Face’. In some instances, the Flower Thrips took the entire crop due to extensive damage. A scouting strategy to determine their presence during bloom period, can help growers prevent crop loss from their mass migration. Several insecticides labeled for use on strawberries are effective on thrips. Consult your local Cooperative Extension office for state recommendations.
3) PROMOTING BERRY VALUE - Marketing and pricing fruit are as important as selecting the best varieties and using the best management practices. Growers are conservative in setting prices even with substantial evidence that consumers perceive berries to have a good value, providing an opportunity to adjust to higher pricing. As you review production budgets for 2018, increasing prices is supported by the increased cost of producing these crops.
One clear marketing message all growers should be promoting is the health benefits of berries. Scientists have found berries to have some of the highest antioxidant levels of any fresh fruits (measured as ORAC), with kale and spinach being the only vegetables with ORAC values as high as fresh, delicious berries. To enhance your marketing, go to the Nourse News section of our website (noursefarms.com) for many excellent fact sheets you can share regarding the health benefits of berries.”
4) ON-LINE MARKETING TIPS - Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, Email, Mobile Marketing – the list goes on and on for potential online marketing tools. As with just about anything, the key to success is proper planning well before berry season.
Questions to ask yourself:
• Do we have any in-house experience using these tools? Which ones?
• What tools are similar businesses in the area using? What has worked for them?
• If currently on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest – how are we performing vs. standards?
• Should we focus on just Facebook and/or Twitter?
• Are we collecting email addresses from customers?
Having a good sense of what tools may work best for you and coming up with a plan on how you will use these tools, is critical to on-line marketing success. Take advantage not only of great resources online, but also, any marketing related presentations at winter meetings & trade shows. Please also contact our Sales Director, Anne Kowaleck who has extensive online marketing experience.
5) WINTER PROTECTION
Straw Mulch on Strawberries. The uncertain weather patterns we have seen over the last couple of years continues to confirm the need to review how much mulch is applied as well as application and removal timing. We recommend full dormancy along with a last herbicide application before mulch is put down. For many growers, frozen soil allows straw application without making ruts in the field. We have had great success applying thick mulch not only for winter protection, but also for cleaner berries. For growers looking to extend their harvest season on the later side, a thicker mulch also gives the benefit of many less frost protection nights by keeping plants dormant longer.