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Strawberries and Caneberries
University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources Agriculture and Natural Resources Blogs
MON, AUG 10 2020
by JoAnn Wall
on January 7, 2014 at 5:57 PM
Is there a company/person who assesses farmland for a potential strawberry/caneberry planting? I am looking for an expert who can determine if a property has the physical characteristics necessary to support berry production. Or perhaps you have a publication on what the land profile should comprise (i.e. water/salinity, climate, soil, topography, etc. characteristics) prior to planting? I realize with different varietals that there are ways to compensate for deficiencies, but hoping someone with expertise can at least determine if a strawberry crop is supportable. Any help is appreciated!
by Mark Bolda
on January 8, 2014 at 5:59 AM
Hi JoAnn,  
I don't know if there is a company or person who can provide you with this information, but I can give you general guidelines. I wouldn't say there is a wide range of compensation within the berry varieties, other than to state that blackberries are probably the most hardy and forgiving of poor growing conditions. You would be best served by a well drained soil with southern exposure. Clean of pathogens (samples to UCCE diagnostic lab in Salinas), good fertility and low salinity (see above) in the soil and water. I would be glad to speak with you about this if you wish.  
by Lane
on January 9, 2014 at 9:41 AM
Mark thank you for looking into this big issue. A few questions, how does nitrogen in pre plant prills increase salt levels? I've seen issues at shallower pre plant injections (3-4 in) and nothing so far at deeper levels (5-6 in).  
Lastly, are there any fertilizers you can recommend to remove salts that may still be in the root zone despite aggressive overhead irrigation (calcium, humid acids)?
Reply by Mark Bolda
on January 9, 2014 at 2:11 PM
Lane, the nitrogen in the pre-plant prills raises salt levels in the soil by adding nitrate, which is a salt. Sodium is a salt, chloride is a salt and nitrate is a salt - many ions are defined as salts, and their potential to damage plants, as you understand from the article, is related to their solubility in water.  
Your issues then at shallower levels of placement (just saw this today matter of fact - lots of time out in the field these days), are classic. The preplant is giving off nitrate because of the moisture, but it's not all being taken up by the still small plant, and since its not being washed away by any rain it just sits there and builds up the EC, making it harder and harder for the plant roots to extract water from the soil and eventually it gives up trying and wilts and dies.  
The concept of using calcium to displace sodium from the soil particle works in theory, but I have yet to see it applied on a large scale successfully in the field. No comment on humic acid. Remember though that we feel strongly that the problems occurring right now are from nitrate, not sodium.  
Basically you have to run water as much as you can to leach this nitrate out. Lots of discussion up here regarding the amount of preplant in the soil - do we need as much as we do? Normally people are putting down 90 lbs of N preplant in the bed, which comes out to be like a rate of 468 lbs of nitrogen in the 5 inch x 6 inch area around that bead of prills. Carrying it further (thank you btw Steven Grattan and Michael Cahn for these calculations), the EC of the saturated paste around this high intensity nitrogen/nitrate area is 3.4 dS/m. That's about what we are getting on the soil samples of areas of dead plants - EC of 3.4.
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