By Gary Gao, Ph.D., Extension Specialist and Associate Professor
Fruit production in containers in a home landscape setting is not necessarily a new concept. However, commercial fruit production in containers is. A few production practices need to be worked out before growers can successfully adopt such a production system. Container production can be a way to minimize winter injuries. This system can also help growers get around poor soil conditions. Polar vortexes during the last two years have caused major problems to fruit production in Ohio and beyond. Effective production systems to deal with winter injuries need to be developed to help fruit growers mitigate risks. Whether we will have El Niño or La Niña during the next a few years, a reliable production is still needed to grow relatively cold sensitive fruit crops.
There are a few benefits with fruit production in containers. One of them is that containers can be moved into a sheltered area before extreme cold temperatures arrive. Fruit plants in containers can also be set on their side so that protective covers can be placed over them for winter production. Another benefit is ease of soil selection and modification. Since artificial soil media will be used, “prescription soils” can be used to meet the specific requirements of each crop. A third benefit might be higher harvest efficiency. Another benefit is season extension since fruit plants in containers can be moved to warmer environments earlier or later to speed up or delay the fruit harvest season to maximize profit margin.
We will also study the effectiveness of Chemigation (pesticide delivery through micro sprinklers) for pest management, especially those that can cause significant damage during fruit ripening and harvest season. Chemigation can save time and labor on pesticide applications while reducing fruit loss potentially caused by driving sprayers though a fruit planting.
Our new project starts in October, 2015 and will last two years. We are very excited about this new project. We extend our sincere appreciation to Ohio Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Agriculture for their financial support of this new project. Stay tuned for more information.