Strawberry is widely appreciated for its characteristic aroma, bright red color, juicy texture and sweetness. It is consumed either fresh or in prepared foods such as fruit juices, ice creams and milk shakes. Among the fruits, strawberry gives the quickest returns in the shortest possible time.
Climate and soil
Strawberry thrives best in temperate climate. It is a short day plant, which requires exposure to about 10 days of less than 8 hours sunshine for initiation of flowering. In winter, the plants do not make any growth and remain dormant. The exposure to low temperature during this period helps in breaking dormancy of the plant. In spring when the days become longer and the temperature rises, the plants resume growth and begin flowering. The varieties grown in milder subtropical climate do not require chilling and continue to make some growth during winter. Strawberry requires a well-drained medium loam soil, rich in organic matter. The soil should be slightly acidic with pH from 5.7 to 6.5. At higher pH root formation is poor. The presence of excessive calcium in the soil causes yellowing of the leaves. In light soils and in those rich in organic matter, runner formation is better. Strawberry should not be cultivated in the same land for a number of years. It is preferable to plant it in green manured field. Alkaline soils and soils infected with nematodes should be avoided.
Royal Sovereign, Srinagar, Dilpasand, and Pusa Early Dwarf.
Propagation is done by means of runners that are formed after the blooming season. The plants may be allowed to set as many runners as possible but not allowed to set any fruits. All the plants with good root system should be utilised to set a new plantation. Given the best attention and care, a single plant usually produces 12 to 18 runners.
The land for strawberry planting should be thoroughly prepared by deep ploughing followed by harrowing. Liberal quantities of organic manure should be incorporated in the soil before plating. Strawberry can be planted on flat beds, in the form of hill rows or matted rows, or it can be planted on raised beds. In irrigated areas, plantings on ridges is advised. The planting distance should be 45 cm from plant to plant and 60 to 75 cm from row to row. In the hills, transplanting is done in March-April, September-October, but in the plains, the months of January-February may be utilized for this purpose. The plants should be set in the soil with their roots going straight down. The soil around the plant should be firmly packed to exclude air. The growing point of the plant should be just above the soil surface. During planting, the plants should not be allowed to dry out and should be irrigated immediately after planting.
Care of young plantation
The roots of strawberry plants spread out close to the surface. Therefore, the soil should be well supplied with moisture, and hoeing should be done lightly and young plantation be kept weed free.
Special horticultural practices
In cold climate the soil is covered with a mulch in winter to protect the roots from cold injury. The mulch keeps the fruits free from soil, reduces decay of fruits, conserves soil moisture, lowers soil temperature in hot weather, protects flowers from frost in mild climates and protects plants from freezing injury in cold climates. Several kinds of mulches are used, but the commonest one is straw mulch. Black alkathine mulch is also used to cover the soil
Since strawberry is relatively shallow-rooted, it is susceptible to conditions of drought. Planting early in autumn allows the plants to make good vegetative growth before the onset of winter. However, in this case it is necessary to ensure that newly planted runners are irrigated frequently after planting, otherwise the mortality of the plants becomes high. During September and October, irrigation should be given twice a week if there is no rain. It may be reduced to weekly intervals during November. In December and January, irrigation may be given once every fortnight. When fruiting starts, the irrigation frequency may again be increased. At this stage frequent irrigation gives larger fruits.
Manures and Fertilizers
Strawberry requires moderate amounts of nitrogen. Addition of organic matter to the soil, in the form of 500 qtl of FYM/ha is highly desirable. N from 84 to 112 kg/ha, P 56 to 84 kg/ha, and K 56 to 112 kg/ha. The Phosphatic fertilizer should be incorporated into the soil before plantings. The nitrogenous fertilizer should be applied in two doses (Three weeks after planting and again at the time of flowering) and potash at the time of flowering only.
The fruit ripens during late February to April in the plains and during May and June at high elevations. For local market the fruit should be harvested when fully ripe, but for transport to distant markets, it should be harvested when still firm and before colour has developed fully all over the fruit.
The yield varies according to season and locality. A yield of 200 to 250 qtl/ha is excellent.