Berry Gardens trials test growing methods

Kent-based grower group and marketer Berry Gardens has set up a new trials site for its growers.

The site was established at the start of the year on grower Robert Pascall's Clockhouse Farm in Maidstone, Kent.

It is being used to trial new varieties, growing media and techniques for a range of soft fruits including strawberries, raspberries and blackberries to help find the best products and growing methods for Berry Gardens members.

Berry Gardens managing director Nick Marston, who has revealed that this year's soft fruit season is now running only a week behind last year's early start, said: "It's important that we are growing the best material for our growers."

Richard Harnden, the group's technical director, added: "We have done trials with growers for a number of years but we have now decided to move out of soil and into substrates because that's become a more favoured system of production.

"We have a range of material here from several large breeding programmes - some from the UK and other parts of Europe."

One of the trials sees the group testing 35 varieties of June bearer strawberries grown in both black and white-coloured coir growing bags.

Steve Kember, the group's crop production adviser, said: "It's not a unique trial but we want our own experiences of it. It's just the fact that black attracts heat.

"We have measured significant temperatures differences between the black and the white. The fruits in the black bag are a week earlier. What we need is to create as much early fruit as we can."

A range of different substrates from different manufacturers is also being compared, as are Jubilee strawberries from four different propagators, namely the UK's Haygrove and Delamore and Holland's WPK and Flavo Plant.

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