Science into practice - Optimising flavour in bag-grown strawberries

Much of the knowledge used to optimise feeding and water management in strawberries grown in soil-less substrates has come from overseas experience and no scientific work has ever been conducted in the UK for the specific needs of UK growers.

HDC project SF 107 (Managing water, nitrogen and calcium inputs to optimise flavour and shelf-life in soil-less strawberry production) aims to improve the economic sustainability of soil-less strawberry production by reducing water and nutrient inputs and manipulating the form of nitrogen nutrition to improve berry yields, flavour and shelf-life potential.

In the initial work, irrigation scheduling and deficit irrigation regimes were imposed successfully on 60-day Elsanta and Sonata plants.

Water savings of up to 45 per cent were achieved without reducing yields of class 1 fruit. Total leaf area reductions of 20 per cent and 40 per cent were achieved for regulated deficit irrigation' (RDI) treated Elsanta and Sonata respectively.

The percentage of Sonata fruit that developed bruising over the six-day shelf-life test was reduced from 45 per cent in commercial controls to 15 per cent by RDI. The soil moisture content threshold values needed to trigger irrigation automatically to the main season crop in 2010 were identified for each treatment (Commercial control, 100 per cent ETp and RDI) and for each cultivar. The work will continue and further results will become available in 2011.

The project, which is being led by Dr Mark Else, is due to complete in March 2012.

The full Grower Summary for project SF-107 can be found on the HDC website,

Horticultural Development Company. For details on all HDC activities, visit

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