Strawberry, just the name gives us a picture of a red, attractive, luscious, tasty, juicy fruit. Besides, strawberries are also known for their nutritious qualities with a distinct and pleasant aroma. It has a unique place among cultivated berries. With the richness of vitamin C and iron, it is mainly consumed as fresh. Jam and syrup are also prepared from strawberry. It is cultivated in tropical and sub tropical areas round the year.
Climate and soil- Strawberry grows well under temperate climate. Some cultivars are grown in sub-tropical climate also.
Daylight- 12hr or less
Temperature- Moderate temperatures are important for flower bud formation.
Soil- Strawberries can grow on any soil type- poor sand to heavy clay; provided proper moisture, organic matter and drainage in present. Strawberries ripen somewhat earlier on sandy soil than on clay soil. Also, the strawberries prefer a slight acidic soil.
pH– At higher pH, there is less root growth. There should not be any underlying lime layer up to 15-20 cm, otherwise it causes burning of leaves. Sandy loam to loamy soil with pH of 5.7-6.5 is ideal for strawberry cultivation.
Varieties- Chandler, Tioga, Torrey, Selva, Belrubi, Fern, Pajaro etc.
Propagation- Commercially propagated by runner plants. Generally one plant produces 7-10 runners but under proper management, it can go up to 15 runners per plant. It can also be propagated through crowns (3-5 plants/crown). Runner formation can be stimulated with the application of IBA (100ppm) 10 days prior to flowering, and also with Morphectin (50ppm).
Propagation with seeds is not suitable as the seedlings do not come true-to-type.
Planting- soil preparation is very important for strawberry cultivation. It should start during summer when the soil is ploughed with a soil turning plough so that the insects present in soil may die. It should be followed by repeated ploughings to make soil friable. Remove weds and stubbles. Deep cultivation improves water absorption by the plants. The weeds can also be controlled by applying paraquat. Also, the soil should be fumigated before planting to control fungal diseases.
Planting time- September- October is ideal time for planting runners or crown in hilly areas. It should be kept in mind that the planting material should be healthy, disease and insect free. If the weather undesirable, the plants can be stored in polythene bags at 31°C to 32°C until condition is favourable.
Aftercare- The flower stems should be removed as they appear on plants after planting. If not removed, flowers create a drain on the pants, reducing their vitality, number and size of daughter plants. This practice also helps establishing the plants and helps in tolerating the heat and drought.
Irrigation- Irrigation is a must and in humid regions, even short droughts can reduce the yield, damaging the shallow root system. Since the plant is shallow rooted, it requires more frequent but less amount of the water in each irrigation.
Harvesting- For commercial purposes, the fruits are generally harvested when half to 3/4th of skin develops colour. For fresh fruit purpose, it is best to pluck the fruits when fully red and attain the aroma.