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University of Arizona research team working on delicious strawberries
The idea? Well, it was born far away in memories of eating delicious strawberries grown in Japan. It's said necessity is the mother of invention. That's what drove Dr. Chieri Kubota, a professor in the UA School of Plant Sciences "Quality of strawberry fruit available in American supermarkets is--to be honest--it's horrible," Kubota says with a laugh. "So I thought we have to do something."
Dr. Kubota decided to grow winter strawberries hydroponically in a greenhouse. There's no soil. That means no pests or weeds that come with soil. However, Kubota also found there was no research, nothing to tell her how to go about doing it.
Team member, UA Research Specialist Mark Kroggel, says, "What we ran into was very little information on how to grow strawberries hydroponically in a greenhouse, and especially in Arizona."
Kroggel says it's actually very easy to grow a strawberry plant, but coaxing a fruit from the plant is what's difficult. He says Arizona has the sunshine and the cold nights needed for the sweetest fruit, but strawberries also like the misty California coast. So something had to be done to make them feel at home in a greenhouse in Tucson. Kroggel came up with a solution. "So, for example, we have an under-bench fog system that runs just a little bit at night--just enough to get the humidity high at night, just like how it happens in coastal California when the fog rolls in," Kroggel says.
Kubota is hoping eventually these strawberries will be grown in Tucson or Willcox or elsewhere in Arizona for Arizonans.
Most U.S.-grown strawberries are from open fields in California and they're shipped all across the country. Kubota say those growers trade taste for shelf life. She wants it to be different for Arizona-grown, greenhouse strawberries.
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