Sweet New Zealand strawberries all year round

Dr Mike Nichols, a retired vegetable specialist who spent 40 years teaching at Massey University, has been experimenting with winter strawberries. He has now announced an 18-month experiment of growing and harvesting strawberries year-round has been successful.

Perhaps, now New Zealand-grown strawberries may be available in winter soon; if the industry can make it financially viable.

"We've found if we plant at the right time we can get a reasonable crop of strawberries in the middle of the winter and that is quite a desirable characteristic for New Zealand because our imports of strawberries out of season come from Australia and United States of America, California and both of these countries have fruit fly.

"[Fruit fly] is a no-no bug for New Zealand because a lot of horticulture exports go into countries which are very conscious of fruit fly and we are a fruit fly-free country," Nichols said.

His success was due to the regeneration of runner shoots every month, where he has been able to keep the cycle of the delicious fruit ready to pick throughout each month.

The results are plain to see, but the question is: is it economically viable?
"I think that is something somebody has to sort out at some stage. I don't think we've got the system anything like 100 per cent, but we're getting some data together because I think this is the first time this has been ever done in New Zealand looking at time of planting and those sorts of things. There may well be better varieties and systems that are different which will improve the economic scene, so I think that's a question of time."

Nzherald.co.nz reported on Nichols saying how a year-round strawberry industry would help New Zealand keep its borders pest free and reduce consumers exposure to chemicals: "Because of fruit fly the product is going to be treated with methyl bromide and a lot of people aren't keen on methyl bromide-treated product."

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