Texas AgriLife is working to make strawberries more available to Texas consumers and have announced two projects that could help reach that goal.
A $92, 267 grant from the Walmart Foundation will help make Texas grown strawberries could become as common as locally grown tomatoes, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service vegetable expert Russ Wallace of Lubbock.
Wallace heads the Texas Strawberry Team tasked with making strawberries a mainstream Texas produced treat instead of a scarcity of locally grown strawberries.
Also announced this week is release of the new “Production Guide for Texas-Grown Strawberries” a complete guide for either beginning or experienced grower.
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The 41-page guide is the first official publication from the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service on strawberries since the 1970s, said Wallace He and Dr. Juan Anciso, AgriLife Extension horticulturist at Weslaco, were co-editors on this publication, which includes efforts from at least 14 specialists and researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife and Prairie View A&M University collaborated in writing.
The two announcements show a commitment to making strawberries an integral part of the Texas fruit and vegetable production industry.
“We received notification on May 18 that our project entitled ‘Increasing Grower Market Potential and Consumer Preference for Locally Grown Strawberries through Strategic Extension Programming in Texas’ was among six grants awarded during Phase II of the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative,” Wallace said. “The initiative is funded by the Walmart Foundation and administered by the University of Arkansas Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability.
Phase II Adds Growers
“Our Phase II project will add new growers willing to give strawberries a try on a small scale, and will also connect AgriLife Extension horticulture agents with growers in their counties to enable both the growers and the agent to gain experience growing strawberries.
“In addition to the strawberry production and marketing training for county agents and growers, we will also follow and survey the growers on their own marketing and sales techniques to help us understand better how to improve strawberry profitability and sustainability in the state.”
The Phase II project will begin July 1 and end on June 30, 2015. The initial grant awarded in May 2013 for $158,391was used to expand sustainable strawberry production by introducing high tunnel and plasticulture technology to growers in under-served regions. It was also used to increase the knowledge of strawberry production and consumption to consumers across Texas, Wallace said.
“Our eventual goal is greatly increase our state’s current strawberry production acreage, now only at about 150 acres, to the point where we can all easily enjoy what could well become a uniquely Texas treat,” Wallace said.
New Production Guide
The new growers guide, also funded by a Walmart grant administered by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability, is available through the AgriLife bookstore as both a free pdf download or as hard copy for $10 each. To access or order the guide identified as publication HT-047, go to: http://www.agrilifebookstore.org/product-p/eht-047.htm.
“While the guide was written for all strawberry growers in the state, it is especially useful to small-acreage farmers interested in pursuing strawberries as a new crop either grown in high tunnels or in standard production fields,” said Wallace.
“The guide contains information on strawberry marketing and all aspects of production to better assist growers with their decisions regarding strawberries, including preplant efforts, variety selection, plant growth and development, pest management, irrigation, salinity and pH, harvesting, and on-farm handling and food safety,” he said. “Essentially, the guide offers most everything anyone would need to know to successfully raise strawberries in Texas.”
Wallace said the guide contains 21 figures and 2 tables. For complete stories click here.