Sweet news for consumers: Fall strawberry production unfazed by weather extremes
Horticulture experts strawberries require 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week, which can be made up with the help of irrigation.
Americans eat over five pounds of strawberries a year, and to keep up with the massive demand, large-scale productions are needed year-round but sometimes weather extremes can play havoc with availability.
California is the country’s leading producer of strawberries, growing around 90 percent of the delectable fruit, but the state has battled wildfires, a mega drought and even the remnants of a tropical cyclone.
Despite the extreme weather, agricultural experts report production is expected to hit its second-highest level on record and extend well into the fall season.
"California strawberries are available year-round, and we are excited our peak season will extend into the fall. The increased demand for strawberries can be attributed to their benefits to health and well-being, plus the many ways they can be enjoyed in snacks and meals," Chris Christian, California Strawberry Commission senior vice president, said in a statement.
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The entire state is dealing with drought conditions that range from abnormally dry to exceptional, but horticulture experts say as long as the plant is getting 1 to 1.5 inches of water per week with the help of irrigation, the fruit should be able to bear through any precipitation deficit.
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"California strawberry farmers rely on rain to reduce irrigation for plant establishment, rinse away salts from the root zone, and re-charge water sources used during the dry season. Most of the strawberry crop is planted in the fall, before the season's precipitation arrives," said Jeff Cardinale, director of communications for the California Strawberry Commission.
For the flowering and fruit development, experts say temperatures generally need to stay around 50-80 degrees.
Depending on weather interruptions, plants can have two or three growing cycles.
Year to date, the California Strawberry Commission reports 1.4 billion pounds of the fruit have been harvested - that is about an eight percent increase in production levels.
According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, Florida comes in a distant second for production of strawberries.
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It remains to be seen whether damage from Hurricane Ian in Florida will impact the availability and cost of strawberries during the late winter and spring.
According to the Sunshine State, strawberries are around a $240 million crop and are mostly harvested in west-central Florida.
Typical planting usually happens during the fall, and crops start reaching peak in February and March.