Horticultural and Economic Considerations in the Sustainability of Three Cold-Climate Strawberry Production Systems

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There is much interest in moving strawberry production systems in a more sustainable direction (Black et al., 2002a; Merwin and Pritts, 1993; Nonnecke and Dewitt, 1996; Pritts, 2002). Sustainable systems have been defined as systems that provide adequate quantity to meet demand, optimize crop output per unit of input, conserve and protect the essential agro–ecosystem resource base, and provide profits that are sufficient to support farmers and viable rural communities (Merwin and Pritts, 1993). For a system to be sustainable to the farmer, it has to be economically viable. Strawberry is a labor-intensive crop in which production of marketable fruit is closely tied to the ability of the grower to minimize weed, insect, and disease pressure through pesticide use and/or cultural practices (Chandler et al., 2001; Hancock et al., 2001; Rhainds et al., 2002), and a large amount of production costs are allocated to managing these pests. Weeds are a major management concern in strawberry and can severely limit the development of runners in matted row systems (Pritts and Kelly, 2001). Controlling weeds is especially vital during the establishment year (planting to first harvest) and between harvests in perennial plantings. Pathogens can cause substantial losses when outbreaks occur. In years when the weather is cool and wet from frequent rainfall, fruit rots can render much of the crop unmarketable. In other instances, virus and soilborne pathogens and pests can lead to plant decline and death.

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