Organic producer Jordan Brown assesses an open-field strawberry experiment during a field day at the Plant Science Research and Education in Citra, Fla.
Organic producer Jordan Brown assesses an open-field strawberry experiment during a field day at the Plant Science Research and Education in Citra, Fla.

Work by five University of Florida researchers that examined open-field and high-tunnel organic strawberry cropping systems are featured in an e-book that summarizes projects funded by the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative.

The nationwide program is funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and administered by the University of Arkansas.

The UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences project involved Carlene Chase and Xin Zhao, associate professors in horticultural sciences; Oscar Liburd, professor in entomology and nematology; Zhifeng Gao, associate professor in food and resource economics; and Mickie Swisher, associate professor in family, youth and community sciences.

During the first year of the project, the group focused on how well cover crops suppressed weeds and nematodes and their potential for improving soil quality, according to a news release.

The researchers looked at eight strawberry cultivars in two open-field studies in systems with four off-season cover crops.

In the high-tunnel portion, they looked at 12 cultivars and advanced selections for yield and quality.

The researchers monitored pests and beneficial insects and mites. Crop management was based on organic practices.

As part of the project, they used an online survey to gauge public opinion on strawberry attributes and willingness to pay for them.

The researchers also worked with Florida Certified Organic Growers and Consumers Inc. and Driscoll Strawberry Associates Inc.