Linda F. Benedict, Bracy, Regina P., Benjamin, Sandra H. | 1/23/2012 10:50:46 PM
Not only do Louisiana strawberries taste good. They’re good for the state’s economy. And this year Louisiana strawberry growers once again are producing a delicious crop.
The peak season for Louisiana strawberries is usually in March and April, but farmers receive more money for their crop earlier in the season. So the prime time for the farmers is November, December and January.
For years, growers planned for their crop to be really in full swing by Valentine’s Day. But with more growers using the Festival and Radiance varieties, the fruit is now coming in several months earlier.
Mark Liuzza, a Tangipahoa grower, said the berries are looking great – very full and healthy. However, some plants are being damaged by mold.
“Our growers planted between Sept. 23 and Oct. 7, and they started harvesting the week of Thanksgiving,” said Sandra Benjamin, LSU AgCenter extension agent in Tangipahoa Parish. “Some growers are harvesting every two days, and on warmer days some farmers have harvested as much as 100 flats per acre.”
“Using plug transplants instead of bare-root transplants has resulted in earlier yields,” said Regina Bracy, coordinator at the Hammond Research Station. “Plugs recover faster from transplanting stress, so they produce berries faster than bare-root transplants.”
Benjamin said the number of producers and acreage have been stable over the past several years.
“There are about 40 commercial and backyard growers, with about 350 acres of strawberries planted in Tangipahoa Parish,” Benjamin said.
The Louisiana strawberry industry involves 83 growers who produce more than 380 acres of strawberries for a gross farm value of about $15.2 million, according to the Louisiana Ag Summary.
Strawberries continue to be the leading fruit crop in the state with Tangipahoa Parish as the leading strawberry-producing parish with $11.5 million in sales during 2010.
Strawberries are good for you
Strawberries are one of the healthier fruits to eat, said Beth Reames, LSU AgCenter nutritionist. They are low in fat and calories and naturally high in fiber, vitamin C, folate, potassium and antioxidants.
Strawberry growers are normally involved in growing other crops also. “In addition to growing strawberries, most of the growers also grow vegetable crops such as tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, squash, cucumbers and cabbage,” Bracy said.Read more about the nutritional value of strawberries in “It’s Strawberry Time.”