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Research

Teagasc has a proud history of supporting the soft fruit industry in Ireland. Today the soft fruit industry continues to boom. We are continuing to support research and development in the sector. This work will continue at the new state of the art glasshouse facility in the Teagasc centre in Ashtown, Dublin.

Improving irrigation scheduling for a crop of ‘Elsanta’ strawberries

Strawberry tray plants grown in small volume peat-filled containers require careful irrigation management. At present Irish strawberry growers irrigate manually or using a simple timer. This may result in sub-optimal irrigation.

The aim of this experiment was to study the use of soil moisture sensors (SM 150’s- Delta-T Devices) placed in the growing medium, to control the scheduling of irrigation. A crop of ‘Elsanta’ strawberry was grown in a peat substrate in a cold glasshouse over two seasons. Each soil moisture sensor was wired back to a data logging unit (GP1 Data Logger-Delta-T Devices). A portable PC running a data interface was used to connect to the data logger(s).

This allows the user to control irrigation parameters. Three irrigation threshold levels were used. These were based on the percentage volumetric water content as measured by the sensors. These thresholds were 40-45%, 45-50% and 50-55%. All irrigation was supplied by a drip line irrigation system.

The yield and fruit quality were significantly higher in the 50-55% water treatment. Plants grown in the 40-45% treatment were prone to plant wilting due to higher salinity levels. The irrigation control system worked well. The software needs to be simplified for industry use.

Improving strawberry tray plant technology in Ireland.

In the past when most of the strawberry plants had to be imported, there were major problems of cost, disease levels and stock quality.

As a result of this research, a number of new strawberry ‘tray plant’ nurseries have been set up which supply both the home and export markets. Consequently, strawberry plant imports have been cut by at least half and it is also some 60 percent cheaper to produce home grown ‘tray plants’ compared to importing ones. Yields, fruit quality and stock quality are also excellent.

Link: Improving strawberry ‘tray plant’ production technology in Ireland (PDF)

Managing bumblebee imports to maintain pollinator diversity and increase efficiency in horticultural production

The risks associated with the importation of bumblebee colonies for pollination of horticultural crops was not fully known. This research has shown the practice poses serious risks to native bumble bee populations and possibly biodiversity. Drift from imported colonies poses a significant disease transmission and hybridisation risk. Due to these risks new bumblebee pollinator management practices have now been developed. New legislation governing the importation and use of these hives is also been introduced due to the significant findings from this research.

Link: Managing Bumblebee Imports to Maintain Pollinator Diversity (PDF)