Evaluation of Organic Strawberry Transplants for Organic Strawberry Production

Conventional strawberry nurseries that fumigate soils with methyl bromide and other synthetic chemicals prior to propagation are currently the main source of transplants for both conventional and organic production systems. While many organic strawberry growers have expressed dissatisfaction with having to use conventional transplants, organic transplants simply are not commercially available. In part, commercial availability of organic transplants has been limited due to a lack of tested varieties as well as a lack of supply during the traditional planting season.

Moreover, the “commercial availability” clause contained in the USDA’s National Organic Program regulations indefinitely allows organic growers to legally purchase conventionally propagated transplants without delineating a timeframe for phasing-out their use. As such, there is little push from market forces to make organic strawberry transplant varieties more available. Research and investments are needed to address these limitations to the “commercial availability” of organic transplants.

The goal of the proposed project is to compare organic bare root strawberry transplant performance with conventionally managed transplants in organic fruit fields. In collaboration with five pioneer organic growers, we will conduct a comparative study at five sites through Santa Cruz County. These sites are designed as replicated randomized complete block trials that will look at canopy diameter, disease wilt scores and harvest yields to compare the viability of organic bare root and conventional bare root transplants.