Strawberries in High Tunnels

Research at the University of Saskatchewan has shown that there is potential to produce excellent yields of high quality strawberries in high tunnels. The U of S trials used the day neutral type of strawberry that is planted fresh each spring. These plants take a while to develop, which delays fruiting. Earliness is always desirable in high tunnel production. Researchers at the University of Kansas looked at the potential to grow the higher yielding June bearing types of strawberry as an annual crop in high tunnels. Crowns of cv. Chandler and Sweet Charlie were planted in late fall – after all summer crops would have been harvested out of the high tunnel. They found that in cold years, the crowns that were overwintered in the high tunnels experienced less cold damage than crown planted under traditional field conditions. However, by late winter, the warmer temperatures in the high tunnels tended to cause the strawberry plants to break dormancy, leaving them susceptible to cold damage. Plants in the high tunnels had more fruiting branches and fewer runners than plants in the open. This converted to greater yields in the high tunnel. Fruit in the high tunnels were also ready for harvest several weeks ahead of open field conditions – representing an opportunity to capture a market premium. Fruit quality was good in the high tunnels, although grade-out increased if temperatures in the high tunnels became excessive.

Yields for day neutral strawberry in high tunnels in Saskatchewan (2005).

Date of 50% Harvest Marketable Fruit (g/m2) Marketable %
High Tunnel Sept. 5 719 80
Low Tunnel Sept. 8 441 82

Source : Kadir, Carey and Ennahli (2006). HortScience 41: 329-335.
University of Saskatchewan – Vegetable Crops Research Update (2005).