General Description about Strawberry plant
Strawberry is a herbaceous plant with a fibrous root system. Its botanical name is Fragariaananassaand is a native of temperate regions, but its varieties are cultivated in subtropicals also. These plants require a medium temperature for cultivation and are generally cultivated in hilly areas. There’s a huge demand for this fruit in the off season also, so it’s cultivated all throughout the year by the help of greenhouses and the prices are also high during these times.
The red, pink, fragrant and nutritious fruits of Strawberry are in great demand in the local market nowadays. It is also used to make jams and jellies. Its 100 grams of fruit contains 87.8% water, 0.7% protein, 0.2% fat, 0.4% mineral salts, 1.1% fiber, 9.8% carbohydrate, 0.03% calcium, 0.03% phosphorus and 1.8% iron content.
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Due to the abundance of vitamin C, iron and minerals, the consumption of this fruit has been found to be very beneficial for patients suffering from anaemia. Strawberry cultivation is becoming a profitable business today due to the knowledge of various high yielding varieties, technical knowledge, transportation, cold storage, processing and preservation. With the advent of multipurpose companies, special processing of strawberries like jams, drinks and candy etc. is being encouraged.
It is a very popular fruit and is often preferred as a dessert like ice-creams, cakes, milkshakes, etc. It has a very nutritional quality, color, aroma, texture and its taste. It is also used as an artificial flavor in cosmetics, sanitizers, candies, etc. It has a rich source of Vitamin C, Iron, Potassium, and fibers.
Strawberry requires a well drained medium loamy soil, rich in humus for cultivation. But heavy water logging soils should be avoided as it can harm the soil. The pH of the soil must be slightly acidic between 5.5 to 7. It should not be at higher pH as it can lead to poor root formation.
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Strawberry is preferred to be planted in a green manured field and should avoid any type of infected soil with nematodes. Also it should not be cultivated in the same land for years or in soils previously cultivated with tomato, potato, peppers, brinjal, or Raspberry as they extract the nutrients from the soil.
Strawberry grows well in a temperate climate but some varieties can also grow in subtropical climate. It is a short day plant and needs sunlight of 8 to 12 hours for 10 days during the flowering period. During winters they remain dormant as they do not get optimum sunlight but soon after winter it starts flowering again. Some of the varieties grow in subtropical climate as well as the temperature is mild.
Varieties of Strawberry
On the basis of sunlight Requirement, it is divided into two categories:
- Overbearing Varieties which can grow during both long and short light periods.
- Commercial varieties which can grow only during short light periods.
Some of the varieties that can adapt to different climatic conditions and have a high yielding capacity are:
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Some other varieties which are grown commercially are:
- Red Coat
- Florida 90
- Pusa Early Dwarf
- Katrain Sweet
Preparation of the Soil
The soil is ploughed repeatedly using a soil turning plough to make soil friable, to remove the weeds and any stubbles. Also soil fumigation is done with a mixture of Methyl Bromide and Chloropicrin which helps to increase the root system, reduce the requirement of fertilizers and also control the weeds.
Mulching of the Soil
Mulching refers to the spreading of organic or inorganic material over the ground as a cover. It is used in strawberry cultivation before transplantation so as to maintain the temperature of the soil and also to protect the roots from cold injury. It helps in reducing decay of fruits, conserving soil moisture, and saving irrigation water. It also prevents growth of weeds and also lowers the soil temperature during hot weather thus protecting the flowers from frost.
Planting of crops
Strawberries use runner plants for propagation using vegetative methods and for large scale propagation, the plants used are free of viruses. These runner plants are mulched using straw and polythene. Mulching helps in controlling the weeds and it is practiced in strawberry farming so that it could reduce any type of injury to the plants and fruits softening.
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The most ideal time for planting runner crops or the strawberry crowns in hilly areas is September to October and it should not be done too early as it could lack vigour and also result in low yielding of crops and could reduce the quality of fruits, and if it is planted late, these runners crops are light. Before transplanting, these runners can be kept in cold storage and the soil in which they are to be transplanted should be frequently irrigated so as to reduce any type of water stress on the leaves. Defoliation suppresses the plant growth, delay in fruiting and can also reduce its yield and quality.
Spacing of Plants
Spacing of plants varies according to the variety of crops and the type of land used for cultivation. In general, spacing of 30 cm × 60 cm is followed and for a model scheme 30cm × 30 cm spacing is used with a population yield of 22,000 plants per acre of land.
Manure & Fertilizer Requirement for plants
According to the type of soil and the variety of crops planted, a fertilizer dose of 25-50 tonnes of farmyard manure is applied, alongwith 75-100 kg of Nitrogen, 40-120 kg of P2O5 and 40-80 kg of K2O for per hectare of land.
Irrigation Requirement for plants
Strawberry is a Shallow rooted plant and could result in drought so it requires less amount of water frequently in each irrigation so as to maintain optimum soil moisture level. Excessive irrigation could result in growth of leaves and stolons at the expense of fruits and flowers and it also increases the incidence of Botrytis rot.
Nowadays, Trickle and Sprinkler irrigation systems are used where 30% of water and energy are saved.
Weed Control & Intercultural operations
Weeds are a great competitor to the crops and if it is not controlled, it can harm the crops to a greater extent. During the first season of cultivation, the field is kept weed free either by harrowing & ploughing, and applying herbicides or plastic sheets.
Inter-cultural practices are continued till mulching of the soil.
Plant Protection measures for Strawberry Cultivation
Some of the important insect pests which harm the crops are:
- Whute grubs
- Hairy caterpillars
- Red spider mites
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These pests could be controlled by applying Endosulfan (0.05%) or Malathion (0.05%) on the appearance of caterpillars.
The mites can be controlled by application of Monocrotophos (0.05%) withWettable Sulphur (0.25%).
To control cutworms, soil should be dusted before transplantation and mixing Chlordane (5%) or Heptachlor dust in the soil at the rate of 50 kg per hectare.
The most common fungal diseases are:
- Black root rot
- Red stele
- Leaf spot
- Grey mold
These diseases can be controlled upon application of carbendazim or thiophanate methyl.
Red stele can be controlled by raising a resistant variety of crops.
Black root rot can be controlled by doing crop rotation with other leguminous crops like beans, peas, etc. Also the flower stems should be plucked at the initial stages to maintain the vigor of the plants. Care should be taken while watering the plants as it could increase the probability of fungal infection if the water is sprinkled on leaves, fruits or flower surfaces.
The plant is also affected by some of the viral diseases that are:
- Yellow edge
To control these viral diseases, resistant varieties of crops are to be planted and the runners should be raised in nurseries.
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Harvesting and Yield of crops
The best time for harvesting strawberry plants is when the fruits become firm and about three fourth of the fruit has developed its colour and for local markets they are harvested when it is fully ripe. In general, harvesting is done on a daily basis and if the weather is right it must be harvested early in the morning.
After harvesting of crops they must be directly packed in flat and shallow containers made of cardboard, bamboo or paper trays, and should be kept in shade to avoid damages due to excessive heat in the open. The plants should not be washed after harvesting as it could get bruised and may lose its colour.
The yielding of crops depends upon season and variety of crops. Plants often start bearing in the second year. There’s an average yield of 45-100 q/ha from a strawberry farm and an average yield of 175-300 q/ha from a well managed strawberry farm. However, it is reported to have a yield of 50 tons/ha upon ideal conditions.
Post Harvesting of crops
Strawberry is a highly perishable fruit so it is very important to take care of its harvesting and handling. It also requires organising its marketing very carefully.
Being very delicate, strawberry fruits are packed in small and transparent plastic containers (PlasticNet). A punnet is filled with 200 grams of fruit. These filled boxes are placed between the two pieces of cardboard and pasted with tape. The coaches packed in this way are transported to remote places by road and rail. Air-conditioned vehicles are used for safe and damage-free transportation and marketing. Fruits have to be marketed as early as possible after harvesting. If the fruits are not kept in cold storage after harvesting, they get spoiled within 2 days.
Post harvesting of strawberries are divided into 5 steps which are:
- Grading – The fruits are graded on the basis of weight, size and colour.
- Storage – The fruits are stored in cold storage at a temperature of 32°C for 10 days and for long distance marketing, it should be pre cooled at 4°C within 2 hours of harvesting and then they are shipped in refrigerated vans.
- Packing – The fruits are packed according to the grades. Good quality fruits are packed in perforated cardboard cartoons with paper cuttings as a cushioning material and the lower grade fruits are packed in baskets.
- Transportation – The most convenient mode of transport is road transport either by trucks or lorries.
- Marketing – The fruits are sold through trade agents at village level or commission agents at market level.
Cost Economics for strawberry (only 2000m2)
|Cost of cultivation of 50 Decimal (0.2 Ha or 2000m2) of Land|
|Area (Ha)||0.2 (2000m2)|
|Drip Irrigation costing||35000||(Rs. Only with necessary components)|
|(Mortality 20% has been considered)|
|Fridge cost 300 Litre||30000|
|Mulching costing||12000||(1.2 mtr width with 30 Micron)|
|Total capital Outlay||77000|
|Cost of Strawberry plant 10000 Plant @ Rs. 5 per plant||50000||Rs / 50 Decimal plant|
|(25% mortality has been considered)|
|Field preparation with bed||10000||Rs. / 50 Decimal of plot|
|Cost of Chemicals, Manures, Fertilizers||15000||Rs. / 50 Decimal of plot|
|Labour Charges @ Rs. 6000/Month||24000||Rs. / 50 Decimal of plot|
|Marketing cost||10000||To sale in Local Market|
|Total recurring cost||109000|
|Production @ 50 Decimal of the plot||2000||Kg|
|Total Return back||255000||Rs|
|Net return @ first year||69000|
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Strawberry Cultivation is a very profitable business as the demand is always higher than the supply which leads to a higher price thus contributing to higher income. But a proper study of its plantation requirements and varieties are important for successful cultivation of the fruit.