From strawberries and caneberries to high-bush blueberries, growing these top-quality crops requires a lot of care. Growers who focus on berry production have their work cut out for them. With the right nutritional program, growers can maximize the marketable yield of large, high-color, firm fruit, while reducing/minimizing poor color, low-brix, mushy, shrink-prone fruit.
The solution is in the science
By taking an analytic approach to plant nutrition, Agro-K allows growers to measure key metrics and apply science-based products to manage their crop more effectively. Here are some things berry growers will want to consider when they work with us on implementing an effective nutritional program:
Be Berry Specific
Each berry operation and crop is unique. Geographic location, specific crop, variety, climate, genetics and soil pH all have an impact on the crop plan and management program. While high-bush blueberries are grown similarly throughout North America, strawberries and caneberries have more variation depending on location, climate, soil pH and other factors. Regardless, not every nutritional input is right for every grower. Knowing the ones that will have the most impact at specific timings is essential to minimizing waste, reducing costs and maximizing the value of the application.
Test Don’t Guess
Berry growers have an impressive base of knowledge about their crop and its unique needs. But when issues arise, the exact cause isn’t always clear. It’s important to conduct several tests. For berry crops, soil, leaf tissue, sap and pre-harvest fruit analysis tests guide the nutritional program. Conducted throughout the season, these scientific tests are a report card to indicate what’s working and what’s not. After harvest, these tests provide a nutritional roadmap for the upcoming season.
Trust the Science
Growers achieve the best results when they act based on the Five R’s: The Right nutrient applied at the Right time in the Right form in the Right mix targeting the Right place in the plant. While strawberries and caneberries have leaves before they bloom, for example, high-bush blueberries do not. This makes a difference with respect to timing. One of the most common mistakes occurs when growers apply nutrients outside of the plant’s peak demand. The more accurate the timing, the more impactful the nutrient.
Science-based nutrition is the key that drives berry quality, firmness, color, eating experience and shelf-life. When it comes to maintaining berry integrity and grade throughout the machine picking or hand harvest and shipping processes, the Five Rs are essential.
Firmness and fruit size require growers to properly apply phosphate during fruit cell division. This is also the window when foliar applications of calcium need to be applied in order to reach the cell wall. After cell division, foliar calcium applications help to maintain adequate calcium levels for firmness/texture and shelf-life.
During rapid leaf development, building and optimizing chlorophyll in the leaves with foliar magnesium, iron, copper and manganese is essential. This will not only increase chlorophyll development in the leaves, it will also increase anthocyanins and improve fruit color and flavor. When followed with summer applications of foliar potassium, growers get the most high-colored, high-flavored fruit at harvest.
During set and fruit cell division, growers will have the most success using foliar products that also contain boron, which synergizes the calcium, and molybdenum, which synergizes the boron. Together, these nutrients improve fruit set and firmness.
Better chlorophyll production in the berry leaves also drives sugar production, improving the crop flavor and taste. Growers can manipulate the chlorophyll during leaf development by using foliar magnesium, iron, copper and manganese, as well as potassium in the summer. Having a good balance of science-driven nutrition will also minimize mildews and rots that tend to plague berry crops.
Because we specialize and focus on high-value crops like strawberry, caneberry and blueberry, we have designed science-driven programs and nutritional tools that empower growers. Because Agro-K understands the intricacies of a science-based approach to nutrition, the farmer can focus on consistently increasing marketable yield, improving fruit quality and texture, and growing the best-looking, best-tasting, firmest berries possible.