K-State Research and Extension News
April 15, 2014
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K-State Researcher Says Local Strawberries Survived Winter

Photos available

OLATHE, Kan. – Between record low temperatures last fall and a particularly harsh winter, strawberry growers in eastern Kansas have had some sleepless nights wondering how their crop might fare this spring. Kansas State University researcher Cary Rivard said that so far, it appears most strawberry plants came through the winter relatively well.

Most home gardeners know strawberries as a perennial plant that survives for many years but some commercial growers in the region are adopting annual production systems where strawberry transplants are planted into raised beds in September and harvested in May, similar to systems in the southern United States. Rivard said this new method for strawberry production is a great way to reduce herbicide and water use and most importantly, improve crop productivity and profitability. However, because of the sometimes frigid winter temperatures in this region, it’s unclear how well this system will work or what measures growers should take in the winter to protect the crop. 

Evaluating that system is part of his research to find the best ways to produce strawberries in the often-challenging climate of the High Plains. As part of the study, area farmers cover their strawberry fields during the winter with large pieces of fabric that protect the plants from damaging cold temperatures.

“We are looking at various row cover thicknesses and timing across several sites, including on-farm cooperator trials with commercial growers,” Rivard said. “Our on-farm cooperators are the most valuable members of the team, and we really appreciate having the privilege to conduct research in the real world. This year we have studies at Wohletz Farm Fresh in Lawrence and Gieringers Orchard in Edgerton.”

Strawberries rank as the fifth most popular consumed fresh fruit product in the U.S., which produces 27 percent of the world supply.

* Source: Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability, University of Arkansas

In another part of the project, Rivard and his team are investigating growing “day-neutral” strawberry varieties in high tunnels under shade cloth at the university’s Olathe Horticulture Research Center. This approach produces strawberries through the summer and is becoming popular in the northern U.S., but little work has been done to determine if the plants will perform in the hot, dry summer conditions typical of the Great Plains.  One of the major goals of this experiment is to determine best management practices for cooling the crop in the tunnel.  

The results of Rivard’s research will be available later this summer once the strawberry crop has been harvested.

For more information about the work done, go to the K-State Department of Horticulture, Forestry, and Recreation Resources website. More information about the high tunnel research will be available at the Olathe Horticulture Research and Extension Center’s Annual Field Day held on Saturday, July 26.

The Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability at the University of Arkansas (CARS) is funding Rivard’s study, made possible by a Walmart Foundation donation made in 2013. The foundation funded numerous projects across the country as it seeks to improve U.S. strawberry production capabilities.

More information about the strawberry research projects is available online at the University of Arkansas.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Mary Lou Peter
K-State Research & Extension News

Dr. Cary Rivard – 913-856-2335 or crivard@ksu.edu