Strawberries are a high value crop recognized for their flavor, color and nutrient content. However, growing strawberries can be a challenge.
The following information provides the essentials that should be considered when growing strawberries in hydroponic production systems. Hort Americas offers an extensive list of products that can help produce this crop successfully.
When growing strawberries hydroponically it is necessary to carefully select all of the products that will be used to produce the crop. This starts with the troughs in which the plants will be grown. Strawberries need at least 2 liters of substrate volume per plant.
One of the most important factors in growing strawberries hydroponically is the substrate.
Strawberries require good root zone aeration. Therefore, it is recommended that strawberries be grown in a substrate than can provide at least 15 percent porosity in the root zone.
Monitoring the strawberry crop environment is the best way to achieve good production. Every crop has specific environmental requirements that enhance development and improve production.
The better environmental control you are able to maintain in your greenhouse, the better control you’ll have over crop production and quality.
Photoperiodic and supplemental lighting
Strawberry plants require a minimum DLI of 17 mol m-2 d-1 to maintain good fruit production and runner growth. In order to enhance growth and production, supplemental lighting is recommended when the optimum DLI levels cannot be achieved with natural light.
Another important use of supplemental lighting is for flower induction. Early flowering of a crop can be an advantage for harvest timing.
Strawberries are available in a large variety of cultivars that can be grouped by photoperiodic response: short-day, long-day and day-neutral cultivars.
To promote early flowering photoperiodic lighting can be applied to facultative (day-neutral cultivars with early flowering response during short days or long days) or obligate short-day and long-day cultivars. Studies have shown that 8 weeks of treatment (8-hour photoperiod to simulate short-day plants and a 16-hour photoperiod to simulate long-day plants) are enough to trigger flowering in strawberry cultivars.
Most hydroponic strawberry production is done inside greenhouses. One advantage of greenhouse strawberry production is the greenhouse structure allows, to a certain extent, the exclusion of pests and the containment of biological controls. Biological controls are a good option to keep plants healthy, reducing or eliminating the use of chemical-based pesticides.