US (NH): Extending the strawberry growing season

Kaitlyn Orde, who graduated in May with a masters in agricultural sciences, conducted research with New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station scientist Dr. Becky Sideman. Learn about why she chose UNH for her graduate studies, what she researched, and what she's gained from her research experience.

Why did you decide to pursue your graduate degree at UNH?
I came to UNH for graduate school both to work with my advisor Dr. Becky Sideman and because I wanted to conduct research that was applicable to the Northeastern United States. I was excited about the collaborative multi-state project (TunnelBerries) that focused on strawberry production under protective low tunnel structures and using day-neutral varieties that Dr. Sideman was about to begin. At the time, I was working with the same varieties in a tissue culture lab at UC Davis, so I thought it would be very exciting to see how they performed in the Northeast, where I am from.

What was the focus of your research interests and why?
My research has focused on extending the strawberry fruiting season with day-neutral strawberry varieties and using low tunnel protective structures to protect fruit marketability. Currently, the typical strawberry season lasts for only about 4-6 weeks each year in the Northeast, and growers can experience a significant crop loss from rain or hail during this time. We have showed that day-neutral varieties can extend the season to 20 weeks each year, and low tunnels significantly increase the percentage of marketable yield.

What was it like having experiment station researcher Dr. Becky Sideman as your mentor?
As I mentioned above, one of the reasons I came to UNH was to work with Dr. Sideman. Dr. Sideman is well connected to the agricultural community which ensures our research is relevant to growers in the region. Dr. Sideman has taught me A LOT over the last three years about all kinds of things, and she has provided me with so many new experiences. I have also been fortunate to have many opportunities to share and publish my research. Dr. Sideman has been a very supportive graduate advisor.

Kaitlyn Orde and her mentor Dr. Becky Sideman

What would you tell prospective graduate students about your research experience? What do you feel you gained most from it?
Well, I very much enjoyed conducting my research at the NH Agricultural Experiment Station. It is a collaborative and friendly environment and a beautiful place to spend your days. I had about six years of field research experience prior to beginning graduate school, which I think helped me greatly in planning and executing my experiments, but even for students without any research experience, there are many knowledgeable people here to support your success and offer guidance.

I would advise prospective students to be very organized, keep detailed records, and anticipate your needs. You also cannot take too many pictures! My personal policy is to shoot for perfection as often as you can because if you are on top of your research when challenges pop up, you will be far less likely to fall behind or make a mistake.

Through my research, I have gained a deep understanding of all aspects of crop production, especially for strawberry and spinach. I have also made so many professional connections around the country and world, which has been really fun and exciting.

What are your plans now after graduation?
I will continue working as a Research Assistant for Dr. Sideman for the time being, as I have several projects that are on-going.
Source: University of New Hampshire (Lori Wright)

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