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Seminar: Austin Wrenn: Evaluation of Six Soilless Substrates for Greenhouse Strawberry Production in the Southeastern United States (Fragaria x ananassa ‘Albion’)

March 20, 2023 | 3:00 pm - 4:00 pm

Evaluation of Six Soilless Substrates for Greenhouse Strawberry Production in the Southeastern United States (Fragaria x ananassa ‘Albion’)
Austin Wrenn, MHS Seminar
Monday, March 20, 2023, 3:00 pm
(Under the direction of Dr. Mark Hoffmann, Dr. Brian Jackson, and Dr. Tregeagle)Location (Hybrid): 103 Kilgore Hall
Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 919 2491 5518
Passcode: 411555


Soilless growing practices have opened up new possibilities for many specialty crops, including strawberries. US strawberry growers are facing a number of challenges that threaten the future of the industry. These include increasing labor and production costs, increased competition from imports, short production seasons, new emerging pests and diseases, extreme weather patterns and new government regulations.  Soilless production of greenhouse-grown strawberries has the potential to address nearly all of these issues. While soilless greenhouse strawberry production has been common for many years in a number of European and Asian countries, it has yet to become commonplace in the US. One of the first keys to creating a successful and economically sustainable soilless strawberry industry in the US is to research which substrate options are most suitable for growers on a local level.

This study evaluated growth and production of ‘Albion’ by comparing six substrate blends using locally available and imported ingredients. We assessed the following substrates: (1) 100% Coco Fiber; (2) 50% Peat / 50% Perlite; (3) 50% Peat / 50% Coco coir; (4) 50% Peat / 50% Wood Fiber; (5) 50% Peat / 50% Bark; (6) European Peat blend (BVB Excellent). Plants were grown using a tabletop system inside a poly-covered commercial greenhouse in North Carolina with basic climate control infrastructure common to the region. The study was conducted in a randomized complete block design during the 2020-2021 growing season and repeated in 2021-2022. Our results showed that while all the substrates were able to produce a crop, there were a few such as EP (European peat blend) and PW (peat & wood fiber) that produced higher yields than others under trialed conditions.

One additional aspect of this project was the creation of an economic case study on soilless strawberry production. While individual growers’ cost and setups will vary, this analysis provides an idea of the expenses and potential returns that can be expected.

Based on this research, greenhouse production of strawberries using locally available substrates may be an option for growers in the Southeast considering a shift to greenhouse strawberry production. However, labor and equipment cost for customized substrate blends might outweigh the cost of premixed-bagged substrate solutions.


March 20, 2023
3:00 pm - 4:00 pm
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103 Kilgore Hall
2721 Founders Dr,
Raleigh, NC 27607 United States
(919) 515-3131


Rachel McLaughlin
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