Test sites show deficit irrigation gains

Water monitoring of strawberry crops has demonstrated savings and increase in class 1 yields.


Growing strawberries using deficit irrigation techniques has been shown to save water and fertiliser while boosting yield and berry quality, according to trials led by East Malling Research (EMR).

The HortLINK-funded project was refined at EMR in Kent between 2007-10 and put into practice last year at four commercial growers in different parts of the country.

"All areas are under significant water stress," EMR research leader Dr Mark Else told the EMR Soft Fruit Day last week. But projects have shown potential water savings of between three to 36 per cent, fertiliser savings of three to 19 per cent, a five to 18 per cent rate of class 1 fruit and improved firmness and flavour, he said.

Trails on a crop of Cordelia variety under polythene at Manor Farm in Kent this year showed a 15 per cent increase in class 1 yields, and improved berry firmness, flavour and aroma, combined with a water saving of 21 per cent. According to Manor Farm grower Andrew Chesson: "We were wasting much more water than we thought."

Else added that the use of monitoring technology, including soil moisture probes, data loggers and telemetry equipment, and communication by text message to growers has worked well.

"The challenge now is to deliver this commercially," he said.

Efficiency demands

The year from October 2010 to September 2011 was the driest 12 months on record for many areas in Britain, latest figures have shown.

"This has been an unusually dry year," said East Malling Research leader Dr Mark Else. "Nearly half of UK soft fruit growers are in water-stressed areas and abstraction rates are unsustainable."

Future legislation will mean that growers will have to demonstrate "more efficient use of water", he added.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Sign up now
Already registered?
Sign in

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Read These Next

Horticulture education update - staying on course

Horticulture education update - staying on course

Raised levels of investment in horticulture education and increased student take-up is welcome news for the industry, says Rachel Anderson.

How will reduced apple and pear harvests hit the industry?

How will reduced apple and pear harvests hit the industry?

This spring, many top-fruit growers in the UK and across Europe were dismayed to discover that swathes of their orchards had been hit by frost.

How should fruit growers prepare for water abstraction reform?

How should fruit growers prepare for water abstraction reform?

Upcoming reforms to water abstraction licensing will for the first time cap the amount of water that fruit growers can take for trickle irrigation.