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The performance of strawberry plugs in Queensland

Menzel, C. M. and Waite, G.K. (2006) The performance of strawberry plugs in Queensland. Acta Horticulturae, 708 . pp. 217-224.

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Publisher URL: http://www.ishs.org/acta/


Plugs or containerized plants can offer several advantages over traditional bare-rooted runner plants for strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) production. Some of these benefits include easier planting, better establishment, fewer pests and diseases, and lower water use during plant establishment resulting in less leaching of applied fertilizers. Plugs also offer the potential for mechanical planting. In some areas of Europe and North America, plugs provide earlier production, greater productivity and larger fruit than runners. Research has also shown that the plants can be grown under short days and low temperatures to manipulate flower initiation and fruiting. Plugs are more expensive to buy compared with runner plants, and will only be adopted by industry if the extra costs are matched by convenience, resource conservation, increased fruiting and returns to producers. We investigated the productivity of 'Festival' and 'Sugarbaby' propagated as plugs (75 cm3 containers) and runners from Stanthorpe in southern Queensland (elevation of 872 m), and grown at Nambour on the Sunshine Coast (elevation 29 m). At planting, the plug plants weighed 0.8 ± 0.1 g DW compared with 53 ± 0.5 g DW for the runner plants. 'Sugarbaby' plugs were larger than 'Festival' plugs (33 ± 0.6 g versus 2.9 ± 0.6 g). The differences in growth at planting were maintained until the third week of July (day 94), with the plug plants weighing 17.8 ± 2.2 g, and the runner plants 21.4 ± 23 g. The proportion of plant dry matter allocated to the leaves increased over time from 59 to 70%, while the proportion allocated to the roots decreased from 21 to 10%. Harvest commenced after 60 days, with the plug plants yielding only 60% of the yields of the runner plants up until 8 August or day 109 (14.2 ± 1.4 g plant -1 week-1 versus 23.6 ± 1.9 g plant-1 week-1). 'Festival' (22.2 ± 2.0 g plant-1 week -1) had higher yields than 'Sugarbaby' (15.5 ± 1.5 g plant-1 week-1), even though plants of the latter were larger. Average fruit weight was 15.6 ± 0.3 g, with no effect of cultivar, plant type or harvest time. In other words, the differences in yield between the various treatments were due to differences in fruit set The lower yields of the plug plants probably reflect their small size at planting. Future research should determine whether plugs grown in larger cells (150 to 300 cm3 as in the USA and Europe) are more productive. Tips to be grown in larger containers should be harvested earlier than those for small cells to maximize root growth of the plug plant. This will probably extend the time required from harvest of the tips and potting them from the current four to five weeks, to eight to ten weeks.

Item Type:Article
Business groups:Horticulture and Forestry Science
Additional Information:© International Society for Horticultural Science.
Keywords:(Fragaria x ananassa); plugs; productivity; strawberry production.
Subjects:Plant culture > Fruit and fruit culture > Berries and small fruits
Plant culture > Propagation
Live Archive:24 Feb 2009 05:36
Last Modified:11 May 2022 02:25

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