- Posted By: Mark Bolda
- Written by: Mark Bolda
There is a stream of thought currently in the Watsonville- Salinas strawberry production district of gaining advantage with earlier plant establishment this year by dramatically reducing the amount of supplemental chill, which is the cold storage of transplants following harvest, for the day neutral varieties ‘San Andreas’ and ‘Monterey’. This might stem from reports that a number of growers in Santa Maria did well in the 2010-2011 production season with a single day of supplemental chill, and furthermore it is standard for growers in Ventura County to plant ‘San Andreas’ with a single day of chill. For some then, it does not then seem like too much of a reach that this might be a good strategy for the Watsonville- Salinas production district.
This is worth reviewing because it flies in the face of standard recommendations for these two varieties planted in this area. There are several things going on here that perhaps contributed to the ability of some growers in Santa Maria to produce well last year with a single day of chill. First, on average last fall, transplants were harvested 10-14 days later than normal and this spring was cooler than usual, meaning a bit lengthier cold conditioning in the nursery field and less plant stress early in the season. Second, ‘San Andreas’ does seem to be a variety which is affected less by supplemental chill than other varieties, that is to say that it might not need quite as much.
Still, the UC recommendations do not change. UC Davis plant breeder Doug Shaw, who brought all of these varieties into the world and therefore has an abundance of knowledge regarding them, is not changing his recommendations. He maintains that one would want to choose transplant harvest about October 18-20 and plant early November, with two weeks supplemental chill. In all cases, plants should be chilled a bare minimum of eight to ten days.
Never forget that supplemental chill gives the plant vigor to forgive the tough conditions of transplanting. Planting day neutral varieties in the Watsonville Salinas district with one day of chill to gain advantage of earlier plant establishment is very much like picking up pennies in front of a steamroller. For a possible small incremental gain, one is risking total disaster. One day of supplemental chill is NOT recommended for University of California day neutral varieties grown on the Central Coast.