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Greenhouse Strawberry Production: Report of Cultivar Performance 2022-2023

By: Joy Johnson, Austin Wrenn, Mark Hoffmann

The predominant method for strawberry production in North Carolina and throughout the United States is annual hill plasticulture. However, growers continuously face challenges such as escalating labor and production costs, heavy pest and disease pressure, and recurrent yield losses due to extreme weather events and climate change. Transitioning to a soilless greenhouse production system (e.g. table-tops) could be an avenue to alleviate some of these challenges. However, greenhouse strawberry production in North Carolina faces a host of other challenges, one of which is the lack of knowledge on cultivar performance. To help growers better understand cultivar behavior in greenhouse conditions in NC, this study aimed to evaluate the performance of seven commonly grown cultivars (‘Albion’, ‘Brilliance’, ‘Camino Real’, ‘Fronteras’, ‘Monterey’, ‘Sensation’, ‘Sweet Charlie’) in a commercial strawberry greenhouse setting in Eastern North Carolina. The greenhouse was a multi-bay, mid tech, double poly plastic covered facility. The trial, which was planted in September 2022 and concluded in May 2023, was conducted on-farm using a randomized complete block design with four replicates per treatment. Although overall yield comparisons did not reveal any significant differences among cultivars for the season as a whole, there were notable differences during specific months of the harvest period which lasted from December through May. The two everbearing varieties in the trial, Albion and Monterey, were the earliest producers of fruit, while the standard short day varieties, Camino Real and Fronteras, had almost no early yields, but demonstrated substantial peak season production in April. Postharvest quality evaluation included pH, TA (total acidity) and Brix (soluble solids content). Although pH and TA were fairly similar over all cultivars, brix was more variable, with Sweet Charlie having the highest average brix and Brilliance having the lowest average brix.