Machinery and Equipment Guide

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Machinery and equipment required for strawberry production will vary by a grower’s preferred production method and operation size. The following discussion shares basic machinery and equipment needs for strawberry production. Depending on a grower’s operation size, expertise and previous machinery investments, the grower must determine whether to purchase and operate the equipment, engage a custom service provider or possibly rent and operate the necessary equipment.

Machinery and Equipment Needs

Preparing the planting site requires several operations. If compaction presents a challenge, then using a subsoiler can be helpful. Sites that had used a cover crop for weed control purposes may require a plow to incorporate the organic matter. Depending on the site’s production history, fumigation may be necessary. Sites that have grown strawberries or crops susceptible to the Verticillium pathogen within recent years may benefit from fumigation. Site preparation should also focus on using tillage and herbicide applications to eradicate perennial weeds. After determining fertilizer needs, broadcast the appropriate amounts. Disking or plowing can incorporate the fertilizer. Harrowing the site is another possible field preparation step.

In a plasticulture system, site preparation equipment needs are more specialized. A bed shaper can form raised beds. To make it easier for the bed shaper to create the desired planting bed, a disk hiller commonly used in tobacco production can serve as a pre-bedder. Selected site preparation equipment for plasticulture production should also have the capability to cover raised beds with plastic and lay drip tape. A water wheel transplanter with teeth at the appropriate spacing can punch holes in the plastic mulch, apply a dose of nutrient solution and allow for the placement of plug plants.

If the planned production area is large — greater than 1 acre — then producers may consider a vegetable or tobacco transplanter when planting strawberries. Otherwise, planting by hand is an option. Adding a rubber tire to the transplanter and filling it with water can provide a packing wheel feature, which will assist the transplanter in achieving good contact between the roots and the soil. Calibrating the transplanter to position plants at the correct depth is important.

Water is a critical input for strawberry production. Overhead irrigation and drip irrigation are two possible systems. With overhead irrigation, producers can provide moisture to plants, but the system could also apply water used for frost protection and evaporative cooling. When growing strawberries in a plasticulture system, the overhead irrigation would offer cold protection, evaporative cooling and transplant establishment benefits. Then, drip irrigation would supply water and nutrients for the strawberry plants to use. Fertigation requires the use of equipment to meter nutrients into the irrigation water. To control weeds, shallow cultivation can manage newly emerged weeds, or applying herbicide is an alternative. Weeding by hand or using a hoe are other options for weed control. After establishing strawberry plants, supplemental nitrogen applied as a sidedress application may be necessary later in the year.

During the harvest period, crews may need to harvest strawberries as frequently as every other day or every day. Instead of hiring a crew of pickers, strawberry producers may operate pick-your-own farms, meaning that consumers — the buyers — pick the fruit. Post-harvest, strawberries require a storage environment that has a temperature that ranges from 32°F to 35°F. Also, the relative humidity level should range from 90 percent to 95 percent. Choose a cold storage system that can provide these conditions.

Operations that choose to grow strawberries as perennials will need to renovate fields shortly after harvest, and portions of the renovation process will require machinery. Those are applying herbicide, mowing leaves from the plants, addressing compaction between rows with a subsoiler, narrowing rows and moving soil toward crowns by using a rototiller or cultivator and applying fertilizer. When mowing, take care that the strawberry crowns aren’t damaged by maintaining roughly 1 inch to 2 inches between the crown and the cutting point. For plasticulture production, leaf sanitation practices using mechanical brushing equipment can remove dead leaves as the plants are exiting dormancy.

To protect plants from winter weather, strawberry producers should mulch their plants. Mulching can be accomplished by hand, or a mulcher designed to shred big bales or small bales is an option. During the following spring, hand labor could remove the mulch, or if a large volume of mulch is covering plants, then set a hay rake to move about 1 inch to 2 inches higher than the plants, and the rake can pull mulch from the strawberry plants. Plasticulture systems can use row covers to provide protection from winter weather.

Basic Equipment and Machinery Needs for Strawberry Production

Matted Row Plasticulture
Tractor X X
Subsoiler X X
Plow X X
Disk X X
Harrow X X
Fertilizer spreader X X
Sidedresser X
Sprayer X X
Bed shaper X
Plastic mulch layer X
Drip line X X
Mechanical transplanter X X
Sprinkle irrigation X X
Rotary mower X
Rototiller X X
Mechanical brushing equipment X
Mulcher X
Row cover X
Wagon or trailer X X
Cold storage X X



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