Wish Farms, a leading grower-shipper of strawberries in Florida, announced Nov. 16 the kick off of its Florida strawberry season, projected to be the biggest to date. With a larger supply of both conventional and organic berries, the first fruit is being harvested from 150 acres and will be available at most major local grocery store chains.
"This year, our strawberry acreage increased from 1,500 to over 2,000," Gary Wishnatzki, president and chief executive officer of Wish Farms, said in a Nov. 16 press release. "In past years, our season had begun in December, so we are excited for our customers to enjoy our berries just in time for Thanksgiving."
In addition to the more traditional bare root plant, Wish Farms is harvesting plug plants, which are young plants grown in individual cells. Bare root plants require nine to 14 days of overhead water, whereas plug plants require almost solely drip irrigation, minimizing water usage.
When transferred to the fields with established growth, plug plants begin to produce fruit more quickly with a greater potential for early yields.
"A traditional plug plant is harvested 14 to 20 days earlier than a bare root plant," Wayne Moss, a grower and nurseryman for Wish Farms, added in the press release. "When the plug plant begins to cycle down, bare root plants begin harvest, providing a wider variation of fruit production throughout the season."
The majority of the early berries will be picked from the Radiance variety bred by University of Florida researchers and predominately grown in Florida. A full supply of berries is expected to be available by mid-December, in time for the holiday push.