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Strawberry growers looking at extending the season

June 17, 2008  By The Canadian Press

June 17, 2008 – The cultivation of day neutral strawberries started small in Canada, but more and more farmers who grow only June- or early July-bearing plants are expressing an increasing interest in growing them to extend the crop to early fall.

Day neutral strawberries may not bear an exciting name, but the produce is certainly appealing to Canadian consumers and growers alike who would far rather savour a homegrown strawberry in late September than one from a factory farm in Florida or California.

“With day neutral, we have more berry farmers trying to grow them on a small scale,” says Kevin Schooley, executive secretary for the Ontario Berry Growers Association. “So what we are seeing are strawberries available at some farms and farmers markets.”

The day neutral, discovered in the late 1970s by a California fruit scientist, is not sensitive to light as a June-bearing plant is, but it does respond to temperature. So if the temperature remains above 2˚C (35˚F) and never goes above 29˚C (85˚F), it will fruit continuously from June until November.

Ontario crop specialist Pam Fisher says that some growers who got their berries on to the market two weeks ago may well have cultivated day neutrals as well as their regular June-bearing crop, which is expected to be in full swing in the southern part of the province beginning this week.

“There is a lot of interest in the day neutral although they are a different crop,” she says. “This is because the grower has to pick the berries every other day, so it’s a constant commitment.”

Fisher says that they aren’t necessarily hardier than regular summer berries.

“They do better in moderate heat,” she says.

Other provinces, such as Alberta and Quebec, are also seeing a rise in cultivation of day neutral strawberries.

“In fact, Quebec has a big berry industry which is comparable to Ontario in terms of both June-bearing and day neutral,” Fisher says.

Fisher adds there are also other ways of extending the strawberry crop “by planting different early-season varieties.”

For diehard strawberry fans, it would appear that the season in all growing areas across the nation is expected to be a good one, says Fisher.

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