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: Campaigners say protected birds in danger in Malta

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Phloem production in Huanglongbing-affected citrus trees

Mar 26, 2014

Citrus Huanglongbing (citrus greening disease) is highly destructive and fast-spreading, contributing to a reduction in crop yields in Florida and threatening the future of the citrus industry worldwide. Once infected, trees ...

Brighter future for bacteria detection

Mar 20, 2014

Ever wonder why fruits and vegetables sometimes hit the shelves contaminated by pathogenic bacteria such as listeria, E. coli, and salmonella?

Recommended for you

Genome yields insights into golden eagle vision, smell

2 hours ago

Purdue and West Virginia University researchers are the first to sequence the genome of the golden eagle, providing a bird's-eye view of eagle features that could lead to more effective conservation strategies.

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

3 hours ago

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

3 hours ago

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Engineered E. coli produces high levels of D-ribose

4 hours ago

D-ribose is a commercially important sugar used as a sweetener, a nutritional supplement, and as a starting compound for synthesizing riboflavin and several antiviral drugs. Genetic engineering of Escherichia co ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Genetic code of the deadly tsetse fly unraveled

Mining the genome of the disease-transmitting tsetse fly, researchers have revealed the genetic adaptions that allow it to have such unique biology and transmit disease to both humans and animals.

Ocean microbes display remarkable genetic diversity

The smallest, most abundant marine microbe, Prochlorococcus, is a photosynthetic bacteria species essential to the marine ecosystem. An estimated billion billion billion of the single-cell creatures live i ...

Cell resiliency surprises scientists

New research shows that cells are more resilient in taking care of their DNA than scientists originally thought. Even when missing critical components, cells can adapt and make copies of their DNA in an alternative ...

One in 13 US schoolkids takes psych meds

(HealthDay)—More than 7 percent of American schoolchildren are taking at least one medication for emotional or behavioral difficulties, a new government report shows.

FDA reconsiders behavior-modifying 'shock devices'

(HealthDay)—They're likened to a dog's "shock collar" by some and called a "life-saving treatment" by others. But the days of electro-shock devices as a tool for managing hard-to-control behavior in people ...

Computer program could help solve arson cases

Sifting through the chemical clues left behind by arson is delicate, time-consuming work, but University of Alberta researchers teaming with RCMP scientists in Canada, have found a way to speed the process.