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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.

Establishing a production system for the new strawberry cultivar 'Malling Centenary'

The soft fruit business in Ireland continues to thrive. The industry has grown from €6 million in 2000 to approximately €42 million euro at present. This represents an annualised growth rate of 28%. The soft fruit season now runs for 8 months (compared to 6 weeks in 1990). Over 95 percent of crops are grown under protection. Large on-farm investments in new technologies have led to big increases in both productivity and efficiency. Growers are continually looking out for new ways to continue to improve both productivity and efficiency.

The most popular strawberry cultivar grown in Ireland is the Dutch short-day (SD) strawberry cultivar 'Elsanta'. This makes up approximately 80% of the current strawberry market. Recently a new SD strawberry cultivar has entered the Irish market. 'Malling Centenary' bred by East Malling Research (EMR) has begun to be grown in a number of Irish farms. Reports about the new cultivar have been very positive.

There is a shortage of knowledge in relation to this new SD cultivar. This is especially so in relation to the nutritional requirements of the crop and the response of the crop to day length. Both aspects will be investigated over two full crop cycles.

This trial is taking place in our new state of the art glasshouses facilities in North 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 with 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 homegrown ‘tray plants’ compared to imported ones. Yields, fruit quality and stock quality are also excellent.

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.