Day-Neutral Strawberries Can Extend The Season

Strawberries in September? Even October? That may only seem like a reality in warmer climates. But sure enough, vibrant red berries are growing today at the West Madison Agricultural Research Station.

Extension Fruit Specialist Amaya Atucha and her team are exploring the best growing methods for organic, day-neutral strawberries. Day-neutral strawberries are the ones you can find in the grocery store year round from California or Florida. But UW-Madison Prof. Atucha says you don’t have to be in the Sunshine State to grow them — they do well in the late Wisconsin summer and early fall.

“During that time of the year, we still get pretty warm conditions during the middle of the day… even when the temperatures might be in the 60s, and we still have sunny days, those plants are still producing a lot of photosynthesis, and that means a lot of sugars that go into growing that fruit,” she says.

UW-Madison researchers found that currently, strawberry growers in the Upper Midwest are only meeting about 30 percent of the demand for fresh fruit with their June-bearing strawberries. The day-neutral strawberries, which produce berries from July through October, can help capture that lost value.

“We’ve heard of prices for organic, day-neutral strawberries of up to $9 a pound in farmers markets in Minneapolis,” she says. “Even if you were to get half of that, that still would be considerably more than you would ever get for June-bearing, and I think that part of it is the availability of fruit off season… but it’s also the fact that they are organic.”