Modifying an irrigated day-neutral-strawberry growing protocol to improve soil functionality by activating beneficial microorganisms through the addition of labile carbon at planting time

Christine Landry, researcher

Christine Landry

Researcher

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Contact Christine Landry

Description

A modified protocol without fertigation that, instead, focuses on soil health is an attractive option for day-neutral strawberry growers who plant in plastic-covered mounds. We know that functional beneficial microorganisms contribute to soil health and, thereby, boost crop productivity (potential for supplying soil nitrogen, yields), and vigour (resistance to diseases and adverse weather conditions). However, these beneficial soil microorganisms require regular inputs of labile carbon. It is their only energy source and it degrades rapidly. Often, the protocols day-neutral strawberry growers follow include no carbon inputs but may instead include treatments with adverse outcomes, like soil sterility.

To take advantage of healthy soil, we must first develop tools to measure soil health. Today’s laboratories provide comprehensive soil health analyses but lack sufficient data specific to Québec soils to tailor indicator target values. This project will modify current protocols with the addition of labile carbon to replace a portion of the granular fertilizer (organic nitrogen supply) used. The goal is to be able to preserve or rapidly restore the activity of beneficial microorganisms. In addition, this may also eliminate the need for fumigation (disinfection by asphyxiation). All this will serve to lessen farmers’ dependence on nitrogen fertilizers (susceptible to leaching) and make crops more resistant to biotic and abiotic stress. The new protocol will help stabilize farm revenues, while boosting profits.

Objective(s)

  • Use labile carbon inputs to increase the soil productivity of mounds used to grow day-neutral strawberries. These additions will enhance the functionality of beneficial microbial populations.
  • Determine the ideal ratio of labile carbon to mineral fertilizer.
  • Study the impact of this ratio, along with spring-time fumigation, on
    • soil biological activity and comprehensive soil health indicators (physical, biological, and chemical);
    • crop vigour (biomass, nutrition, diseases), and
    • fruit yields.
  • Conduct cost and revenue analyses for all protocols tested.

From 2019 to 2023

Project duration

Fruit production

Activity areas

Fertilizer management, Soil health

Services

The protocol developed in this project will help preserve and/or rapidly restore the activity of beneficial soil microorganisms.

Partners

AgroEnviroLab | Ferme Onésime Pouliot | Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation

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