Plastic tunnels (cloches)
Cloches protect the crop from wind, hail and heavy rain during winter and warm the air and soil. They encourage vigorous growth, early fruiting and more even colouring of berries.
Construct cloches by erecting wire hoops about 2m apart across the beds and covering them with a continuous sheet of clear polythene. Attach the polythene so that it can be easily rolled up to allow watering, harvesting and pest control.
Uncover the cloches on hot days to avoid scorching of leaves, and also in warm weather for pollination. The temperature inside the cloche should not exceed 33°C.
High tunnels (Haygrove™)
Some growers are using these for added crop protection and worker comfort. Trials comparing cloches with high tunnels show variable results depending on year and variety. The variety Albion shows more consistent results under high tunnels. Marketable yield will be higher in years with cool rainy weather early in the season.
Given the erratic nature of weather conditions in recent years (for example, summer hail storms), the reduced risk associated with tunnels is worth considering. Since these tunnels do not cover completely to ground level the risks of storm damage to the tunnels are less than with traditional tunnels.
Hydroponic strawberry production
Few growers have adopted hydroponic production to date in Australia. There are high capital costs to establish hydroponic production and prices for strawberries in recent years have been declining due to oversupply.
The black plastic mulch controls most of the weeds in the rows. Weeds between the rows are usually controlled with a contact herbicide such as Spray Seed®. Apply this with a hooded sprayer. Do not allow drift to contact strawberry plants.
Alternatively, a ryegrass cover crop can be planted between the rows and that will help stabilise the soil and prevent dust blowing onto the fruit. There are a number of selective herbicides registered for use in strawberries. Consult the APVMA website for the latest information.
Irrigation and fertiliser practice
Information on irrigation and fertiliser programs for strawberries can be found on this website using the links provided.