Hands down the hardest work in strawberries is removing the mulch after the season is over. It's hard, dirty and the plastic seems to rip all the time.
The removal machine manufactured by CropCare described in the following article takes care of this though and furthermore claims to cut the labor costs involved in this process in half.
Neat little article from Bloomberg discussing some current breeding efforts in strawberry:
I have to say that in doing a replay of my day to day conversations over the past week there is a ton of interest in the provenance of that strawberry plant growing in the sidewalk outside of the BK on the corner of Riverside and Main...
Uh... no I don't think so. Not by a long shot.
Consider the loosely written article from WaPo concerning the phase-out of methyl bromide and the effect it will have on the strawberry industry:
Yes, beyond the breeding, steam and ASD, actual methyl bromide fumigation alternatives do exist and will play a big role in the future of the industry. Matter of fact, I've a got a meeting going on this afternoon at my office of top industry scientists and growers to coordinate our efforts in just that.
Money line of the article by UCCE scientist Steve Fennimore - "People talk about a silver bullet to replace it, and that's a mistake. We want to put a lot of treatments together and make it all work."
Great summary by Gary Pullano in Vegetable Growers News of a presentation by Lee Stivers of Penn State University Extension concerning keeping berries at maximum quality for your customers:
Key takeaways and things I have harped on for years:
1. Number one mistake growers make is not cooling berries quickly enough. As Lee clearly says about the berries "They can't wait around, or it just shortens the shelf life of the berries". In other words, leaving the truck out in the field for two hours in the sun because it isn't full yet is not a strategy for high quality berries.
2. Lee admits that "even though we know that consumers should be washing the berries before consuming them, we also know that doesn't always happen" (guilty as charged!). "That makes farm food safety procedures to minimize the risk of spreading food-borne pathogens especially critical." Clean hands, clean containers and healthy workers are essential.
Last point of interest, especially for direct marketers:
1. If one is willing to reduce shelf life by a few days, research out of Cornell found that if strawberries are picked at white tip and cooled to 50 degrees F rather than the traditional 32 -34 degrees, the fruit still held up and ripened somewhat. Doing this addresses the problem of surface condensation on the fruit and consequent dulling of the color from those cooler temperatures.
A nice opportunity here for all of you to get out, visit a few organic vegetable and strawberry farms and talk with growers and agricultural scientists working in the field. Meeting is on August 20 and takes off from in front of my office at 8 am. Attendance is free, but you have to send in your RSVP first. More information on the flier below.