Strawberry and its Health Benefits

It is said that, “Be Healthy! Be Happy! Eat some Strawberries”. From this saying we must have to realize the importance of strawberry that, if we want to enjoy healthy life then we have to eat strawberries. In this article I will mainly focus on strawberry cultivation process as well as its nutritional value.

[ads-quote-center cite=’ Hamza Sardar’]Department of Horticulture College of Agriculture, University of Sargodha, Pakistan[/ads-quote-center]

The scientific name is (Fragaria × ananassa) belongs to genus Fragaria and originated in Europe. Its cultivation is done at global level for its fruit. The fruit is liked all over the world because of its beautiful heart-shaped red appearance, juice, aroma, sweetness and nutritional benefits. China ranks first in production of strawberries with 3.8 million tonnes in 2016 and other producing countries are USA, Mexico, Egypt, Turkey and Spain etc. In Pakistan strawberries are mainly grown in northern areas as well as subtropical region. Furthermore, the cities where strawberries are grown in Pakistan be Chitral, Mingora, Swat, Ghotki, Kaghan, Bahawalpur, Panu Akil, Faisalabad, Sialkot and some others. But postharvest losses are much high (>40%) due to lack of resources and poor availability of infrastructure.

Strawberry is an herbaceous perennial plant with short stem and can grow 20-25cm in height. It has fibrous root system and compound leaves forming crown shape. Flowers are generally white and arise from the axils of the leaves. Its fruit is red in color and has small seeds on the outside. Botanically it is considered as an “accessory fruit” and is not a true berry.

Strawberries are used in making of many dishes like Eton mess (dessert containing a mixture of strawberries and banana) in England, Frasier (a French cake made of strawberries) in France, Pavlova (cake that is decorated with a topping of strawberries) in New Zealand, strawberry cheesecake, strawberry ice cream, strawberry jam, chocolate covered strawberries and strawberry pie. As well as in making of baby oils, shampoos, lotions, toothpaste, face washes, squashes, jellies, candies, salad, juices and syrups.

Its fruit has a great nutritional value. According to USDA, a cup of strawberries contains energy 136 KJ, carbohydrates 7.68g, sugars 4.89g, protein 0.67g, dietary fiber 2g, fat 0.3g, vitamins (C, E and K), minerals (calcium 16mg, iron 0.41mg, magnesium 13mg, manganese 0.386mg , phosphorus 24mg, potassium 154mg, sodium 1mg and zinc 0.14mg) and water 90.95g. This is the reason why strawberry has a number of health benefits like:

Ø Improves heart function

Ø Good for skin

Ø Reduces high blood pressure

Ø Helps in weight loss

Ø Treats puffy eyes

Ø Prevents stroke

Ø Good against constipation

Ø Helpful for hairs

Ø Improves bone health

Ø Good for diabetes

Ø Teeth whitener

Ø Treats Arthritis and Gout

Ø Help fight cancer

Ø Boost immunity

Ø  Improve brain health

Ø Support healthy pregnancy

Ø Have anti-aging properties

Ø Increase our energy

Ø Alleviates allergy

Above mentioned are the immense health benefits of strawberries. But it is said that, “Excess of everything is bad” so if we excessively consume strawberries then they have also some side effects as well:

§  Diarrhea and gas

§  Kidney stones

§  Yellow skin

§  Fever

§  Liver disease

Strawberry cultivation process includes following points:

·        Site and Soil

·        Land Preparation

·        Planting time

·        Irrigation

·        Fertilizers

·        Propagation

·        Insect control

·        Diseases

·        Harvesting

·        Grading and packing

Strawberries will grow better only if site and soil is appropriate. Pakistan enjoys varied climatic conditions that are favorable to its growth.  Selection of suitable site is necessary for strawberry cultivation and soil ranging from light sandy to clay with optimum pH 5.5-6.5 is considered best. However strawberries can be grown in heavy soils but addition of organic matter is required.

Firstly, land should be prepared for strawberry cultivation by ploughing. The main purpose of ploughing is to mix the upper and lower layer of soil, bringing lower nutrients up to soil surface. Its cultivation is mostly done on raised beds which are 4-5 inches high and 24 inches wide.

Early spring is an excellent time for cultivating strawberries as it ensures good development and increased productivity. Fall planting is not suggested because of weed control problems.

Strawberry is a shallow-rooted crop it is susceptible to drought. So it is necessary to irrigate frequently after planting, if not the death rate of plants become high. Irrigation should be given according to soil moisture contents and weather conditions.

Fertilizers include nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium which are required for good crown and runner development. However soil tests will identify the deficiency of nutrients. Usually nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium are applied at or before planting.

There are three methods of propagation for strawberries by seeds, plant division and runners. Mostly plants are propagated through runners because it is the easiest and quickest method of propagation.

Insects can be controlled usually by crop rotation in strawberries and by chemical applications as well as preventive measures insects include slugs, moths, mites, beetles, aphids, thrips, fruit flies and many others. Strawberries are being attacked by number of diseases like powdery mildew, angular leaf spot, bacterial wilt, anthracnose, black leaf spot, black root rot, common leaf spot, brown cap, leaf blotch, leaf rust, leaf blight and stem-end rot etc.

Harvesting should be done carefully because strawberry is highly perishable crop. Fruit should be harvested when its colour turn from green to red, but it depends on variety. Mostly hand picking is done in strawberries. They will be stored for only 48 hours in domestic refrigerator at a temperature of 2°c. An average yield of strawberry per hectare is 5-10 tonnes.

Last step is grading and packing. Strawberries are sorted into grades according to their quality in suitable wooden baskets. Bruising should be avoided because it destroys the whole wooden basket containing 8-9kg strawberries. It is highly perishable crop so proper care in handling and marketing is required.

Strawberry varieties which are growing in Pakistan be Chandler, Corona, Douglas, Tufts, Gorella, Toro, Honeyo, Pocahontas and Cruz. Strawberry has been divided into three types; June-bearing strawberries, everbearing strawberries and day-neutral strawberries.

There are some factors for success if we want to make our self successful in strawberries farming in Pakistan then we must have to keep them in mind:

ü High quality seeds should be used.

ü Pests and diseases should be timely controlled.

ü Proper post-harvest facilities are available.

ü Special attention given towards production technology.

ü Soil should be appropriate and analyzed at proper time.

 

To conclude as explained above strawberry is a God gifted highly nutritious fruit crop which has great importance related to human health and economy. It can give revenue more than 200,000 per acre. But in Pakistan due to poor availability of infrastructure like transportation, poor packaging and inappropriate harvesting post-harvest losses are more than 40% which are much high and also a big risk to economy. So if we want to earn income and take benefits from this marvelous fruit crop in future then we have to improve our infrastructure, production facilities and post-harvest facilities. In Pakistan strawberry is still grown on very small area just for local markets and till now no proper attention is given towards it but there is an urgent need of giving more attention towards strawberry cultivation and we should have to grow this as a major fruit crop because of its immense health benefits in addition to improve the value of Pakistani strawberries in the World’s eye.

Growing strawberries: Planting, growing, and harvesting strawberries

Sweet, juicy strawberries are treats when right off the plant. Supermarket berries tend to be tart with grainy texture; this is because the natural sugar in the berries begins converting to starch as soon as it is plucked from the plant.

It’s definitely worth your while to try growing strawberries, and the good news is that they are relatively easy to grow if you have full sun.

Strawberry plants come in three types:

  • Day-Neutral: Insensitive to day length, these varieties produce buds, fruits and runners continuously if temperature remains between 35 and 85. Production is less than that of Junebearers.
  • Everbearer: These varieties form buds during the long days of summer and the short days of autumn. The summer-formed buds flower and fruit in autumn, and the autumn-formed buds fruit the following spring.
  • Junebearer: Length-of-day sensitive, these varieties produce buds in the autumn, flowers and fruits the following spring, and runners during the long days of summer.

For the home garden, we recommend Junebearers. Although you will have to wait a year for fruit harvesting, it will be well worth it.

 

PLANTING

  • Buy disease-resistant plants from a reputable nursery, of a variety recommended in your area.
  • Plan to plant as soon as the ground can be worked in the Spring
  • Strawberries are sprawling plants. Seedlings will send out runners, or ‘daughter’ plants, which in turn will send out their own runners.
  • Make planting holes deep and wide enough to accommodate the entire root system without bending it. However, don’t plant too deep: The roots should be covered, but the crown should be right at the soil surface.
  • Provide adequate space for sprawling. Set plants out 20 inches apart, and leave 4 feet between rows.
  • Roots shouldn’t be longer than 8 inches when plants are set out. Trim them if necessary.
  • pH should be between 5.5 and 7. If necessary, amend your soil in advance.
  • Strawberry plants require 6-10 hours a day of direct sunlight, so choose your planting site accordingly.
  • Tolerant of different soil types, although prefer loam. Begin working in aged manure or compost a couple months before planting.
  • Planting site must be well-drained. Raised beds are a particularly good option for strawberry plants.
  • Practice crop rotation for the most success. Do not plant in a site that recently had strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, or eggplant.
  • Establish new plants each year to keep berry quality high each season.
  • It is also possible to grow strawberries from last year’s runners.

CARE

  • In the first year, pick off blossoms to discourage strawberry plants from fruiting. If not allowed to bear fruit, they will spend their food reserves on developing healthy roots. The yields will be much greater in the second year.
  • Eliminate daughter plants as needed. First and second generations produce higher yields. Try to space each plant about 10 inches apart.
  • Moisture is incredibly important due to shallow roots. Water adequately, about one inch per week. Strawberry plants need a lot of water when the runners and flowers are developing and again in the fall when the plants are mature.
  • Keep the beds mulched to reduce water needs and weed invasion.
  • Be diligent about weeding. Weed by hand, especially in the first months after planting.
  • When the growing season is over, mow or cut foliage down to one inch and mulch plants about 4 inches deep with straw, pine needles or other organic material. This can be done after the first couple of frosts, or when air temps reach 20° F.
  • Remove mulch in early spring, after danger of frost has passed.
  • Row covers are a good option for protecting blossoms and fruit from birds.

PEST-BEATING TIPS

  • Keeping beds weed-free and using a gritty mulch can deter slugs and bugs. Spread sand over the strawberry bed to deter slugs. (This also works well for lettuce.) Pine needles also foil slug and pill-bug damage.
  • For bigger bugs such as Japanese beetles, spray your plants with puréed garlic and neem seed oil. 
  • When birds threaten your strawberries, position balloons with scare-eyes above the beds and use reflective Mylar bird tape to deter them. 

HARVEST/STORAGE