AUBURN UNIVERSITY, Ala. – Strawberry season is underway in Alabama. Known for their bright colors and sweet taste, strawberries play a special part in the Alabama’s economy and culture.
A Sweet Business
Kevin Burkett, an Alabama Extension regional agent, said strawberries are one of the top commercial fruits for Alabama.
“In Alabama, strawberries rank in the top three of commercial fruit produced,” Burkett said. “Also, strawberries are the fourth most valuable fruit produced in the United States.”
Dr. Edgar Vinson, an Alabama Extension commercial horticulture specialist, said most Alabama grown strawberries are sold directly from the producer to the consumer.
“Producers often sell Alabama strawberries at roadside stands, farmers markets as well as right off the farm,” Vinson said. “Some farmers have a U-pick system in place to sell their strawberries. This adds a certain unique quality to Alabama strawberries.”
Alabama Strawberry Production
There are two common varieties of strawberries that producers grow in Alabama: Camarosa and Chandler. Strawberries are an early season crop in Alabama. The growing season typically runs from March until late May or early June.
Vinson said all of Alabama’s commercial growers use the annual hill plasticulture system to plant.
“Strawberry plasticulture is a hill training system where freshly dug bare-root plants or plugs are planted in late summer to early fall,” Vinson said. “When using this planting method, growers need special equipment to make the 8-inch-deep raised beds that are covered with black plastic mulch.”
Most growers will harvest for a six week period. The ripening season is different for different areas of the state. The general rule of thumb is the further south you are, the earlier the strawberries will ripen.
Alabama Extension designed a brochure that highlights several aspects of strawberry production. Burkett said these brochures are located at all the welcome center across the state. They are also in several major cities’ visitor centers such as Montgomery and Birmingham. Any business or farmer that would like copies of the publication may request them through Extension.
For more information on strawberry production in Alabama, visit www.aces.edu or contact your county Extension office.