Strawberry fields ripe for the picking

Dec 06, 2007
Strawberry fields ripe for the picking
Reporting thoughts from matted row system. Credit: Matthew Stevens

Many fruit farmers in the United States rely heavily on "pick-your-own" (PYO) operations to realize profits and create repeat business. Pick-your-own fruit farms are an important market segment, and consumer satisfaction with the experience is critical to farmers eager to increase seasonal revenues.

A team of researchers from the University of Maryland, Utah State University, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture compared three different strawberry production systems over a two-year period (2003-2004) to determine which system was preferred by consumers who frequented pick-your-own farms. Researchers also examined each production system to compare the quality of strawberries produced and attempted to determine how consumer preference affected the price customers would pay for fresh berries.

Matthew Stevens, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, undertook the research project as part of his Master's thesis. Stevens reported that consumers surveyed in the first year of his study preferred picking fruit from the cold-climate "plasticulture" system. Plasticulture strawberries are grown on raised beds using black plastic mulch and a trickle irrigation system.

Farmers use plasticulture because it can extend the growing season and improve crop health and growth. Interestingly, Stevens' team found that consumers surveyed during the second year of the study preferred PYO strawberries grown in the "advanced matted row" system, which features raised beds covered with a cover crop mulch instead of plastic mulch and a subsurface drip irrigation system.

"This seems to suggest that the cold-climate plasticulture system, typically an annual production system, is not ideal for perennial production, but would be popular as an annual system.The conventional matted row system, most commonly used in colder production regions, was the least popular system in the first year and was ranked between the advanced matted row and cold-climate plasticulture system in the second year. Most consumers (63%) indicated they would be willing to pay more to pick fruit from their favorite system.", Stevens stated. "We also found that, among fruit quality characteristics tested, only firmness differed among the systems, with fruit from the cold-climate plasticulture being slightly softer than fruit from the other two systems."

According to Stevens, the research study will provide growers with a clear comparison of how different strawberry production systems affect customers' perceptions of pick-your-own experiences. "As growers consider shifting from the conventional matted row system to modern systems, this research will give them an idea of how customers may react to such a change. Growers can use this information, along with information on economics and environmental impacts of the systems, to make an informed decision on which system would be best to use on their farm.", he summarized.

Source: American Society for Horticultural Science

Explore further: Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

Related Stories

How olive oil is processed

May 15, 2015

The olive tree is native to the Mediterranean basin. Archeological evidence shows that olive oil was produced as early as 4000 BC. Besides food, olive oil was used historically for medicine, lamp fuel, soap, ...

Dying cells can protect their stem cells from destruction

May 11, 2015

Cells dying as the result of radiation exposure or chemotherapy can send a warning to nearby stem cells. The chemical signal allows the stem cells to escape the same fate, University of Washington researchers ...

Controlling the internal structure of mitochondria

May 05, 2015

(Phys.org)—One might think of mitochondria as devices for transporting electrons to their lowest energy state. Little bags of finely-tuned respiratory chain subunits which combine electrons extracted from ...

Mechanisms for continually producing sperm

May 01, 2015

Continually producing sperm over a long time is important to procreate the next generation. Researchers of the National Institute for Basic Biology, National Institutes of Natural Sciences in Japan, Ms. Kanako ...

Recommended for you

Insect mating behavior has lessons for drones

11 hours ago

Male moths locate females by navigating along the latter's pheromone (odor) plume, often flying hundreds of meters to do so. Two strategies are involved to accomplish this: males must find the outer envelope ...

Bacterial tenants in fungal quarters

21 hours ago

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich researchers have sequenced the genome of a bacterial symbiont hosted by a mycorrhizal fungus. Analysis of the symbiont's genetic endowment reveals previously unknown ...

Natural enzyme examined as antibiotics alternative

May 29, 2015

In 1921, Alexander Fleming discovered the antimicrobial powers of the enzyme lysozyme after observing diminished bacterial growth in a Petri dish where a drop from his runny nose had fallen. The famed Scottish ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.