Brad Bergefurd, a horticulturist with Ohio State University Extension, has been testing freeze blankets on strawberry plantings. The polar vortexes this year have provided a strong test for the technology.
Bergefurd, who is based at the Ohio State University South Centers in Piketon, says several strawberry test plantings at the center that were covered with varying weights and applications of freeze blankets look to have avoided the same injury the sub-zero arctic temperatures inflicted on a significant number of small fruit crops in Ohio this year.
"With temperatures in some areas reaching minus 20, this was the kind of winter researchers here were waiting for in order to get a really good idea on how well these freeze blankets can work to protect small fruit crops from winter injury," he says. "Thanks to funding in part by the Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program, this research project has been ongoing for three years, but the last two years were so mild.
"So the polar vortexes the region experienced this winter were great for the research project to see how well these blankets work. Visually, we've seen good results although we haven't started harvesting yet. But visually we can see how they overwintered, and the crops look pretty good."
Bergefurd will discuss the team's findings during a strawberry production workshop May 22 from 6-9 p.m. at the OSU South Centers, 1864 Shyville Road, in Piketon. Registration is $15, which includes a light meal and educational handouts.
Also during the workshop, farmers can learn more about a production method that results in larger, sweeter berries and increases on-farm profits thanks to a strawberry plasticulture technique that helps extend the harvest season by weeks.
Plasticulture strawberry production is an increasingly popular method in which strawberries are planted in September and grown over the winter using plastic to keep the soil warm and suppress weed growth, which results in larger, sweeter berries during an earlier harvest period, he said.
Thanks to the relatively new production method, Ohio consumers now can have access to locally grown strawberries as early as the first week of May and as late as October, according to the results of an ongoing OSU Extension research trial conducted by Bergefurd.
For registration, contact Charissa McGlothin at 740-289-2071, ext. 132. The deadline to register is May 19.
Source: OSU Extension