Horticulture program receives $83,000 in USDA and industry support to conduct strawberry market and season extension research

By: Brad Bergefurd, Extension Educator Horticulture /Agriculture and Natural Resources 
 
Thanks to grants from the Ohio Department of Agriculture, the State of Ohio, the United States Department of Agriculture and the Ohio Vegetable and Small Fruit Research and Development Program, Ohio strawberry research and Extension education are increasing. Brad Bergefurd, Extension Educator and Horticulture Specialist, the projects’ Principle Investigator, is leading this strawberry research project to further support the growth of the expanding consumer demand for locally grown strawberries. 
 
Ohioans consume over 89 million pounds of strawberries annually, however Ohio farmers only produce 1.8 million pounds annually (USDA, NR-15-06, 2015). This additional 87 million pounds of strawberries, currently sourced from farms and related distributors outside of Ohio, has an estimated farm level value of $165.3 million.
 
This project will use applied strawberry field production research and educational programming to capture dollars and jobs that are currently being sent out of Ohio by Ohio’s produce marketing industry, by expanding Ohio’s strawberry production and plant propagation capabilities. This research will evaluate new strawberry cultivars, develop innovative plant propagation and field production systems, protective culture production systems including high tunnels and greenhouse production,  drip irrigation, winter protection,  fertility management, insect and disease control methods, harvesting, and production techniques that can be adopted by Ohio farmers to increase strawberry production from the traditional four week harvest season in June to a four-month production system.
 
J.M. Smucker Company in Orrville, Ohio that utilize a large portion of strawberries for their processing operations and Sanfillipo Produce Company in Columbus that utilize fresh market strawberries for their Ohio 1st Local Food program are providing industry support for this research.