Strawberries, traditionally grown on land in long soil rows, are prolifically producing fruit in a variety coir and coir blend growing systems. Even in areas where cold weather can rule, greenhouse strawberries grown in coir and and coir blends are impressing growers with substantial crops and longer growing seasons than ever before. Just this year, the British produced more strawberries than ever before during a record growing season of 38 weeks, using greenhouse-glasshouse tabletop methods. Farmers were able to produce 98 percent of the strawberry crop in the UK practically eliminating the need for imports of this favorite berry.
While some growers are using high tunnel field methods and still using native soil, plant damaging fungus pathogens are a serious problem. Fumigation prior to planting was the only option for many soil based growers to eliminate these pathogens. However, many countries are strictly regulating and some are banning the use of these pre-planting fumigants so farmers have had to look to soil-less options. Soil-less growing media is attractive because fungus is not present in coir, peat or perlite, eliminating the need to fumigate. Farmers are finding that growing in soil-less media and undercover, is producing bumper crops, using less water and even creating simpler ways to harvest strawberries.
“Tabletop” growing and overhead growing allows harvesting without the back breaking lean that accompanies harvesting field planted crops. Since the strawberry plant keeps producing, strawberries are harvested several times during the growth period of the strawberry plant. The ability to walk through a greenhouse and reach up or out to pick makes the harvest easier on the worker and faster too.
Vertical towers are another growing system offering abundant harvests in less space than horizontal rows, less water consumption and are very conducive to utilization of a coir/perlite growing mix.
Strawberries can also be field grown utilizing plastic lined trenches filled with coir or coir blends. This allows existing land to be used traditionally.. but with a twist. The strawberries are protected from soil borne pathogens because they are not in contact with soil at all.
While it might be awhile for soil-less media containing coir and other components become mainstream for strawberry production, it certainly provides a viable option to fumigation where chemicals like methyl bromide are being banned. It also provides a vehicle for value added produce marketing and organic growing properties.