Good Morning From Louisiana! (7:15am, 2/4/16)

— Written By Barclay Poling

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Figure 1. Freshly picked Camino Real berries from a farm in Ponchatoula. This variety has done extremely well this season, and the growers I spoke to yesterday are particularly impressed with Camino’s good flavor this season! In just a matter of a few months (or less) strawberry growers from all over will be getting calls from nursery suppliers about next year’s order. That’s right, nurseries need to know relatively soon what varieties growers will want for 2016-2017. It would appear to me that this short day variety, Camino Real, from the University of California, is earning some pretty high marks!

Good morning from Louisiana!

Greetings from Central Louisiana’s strawberry growing area in Tangipahoa Parish. Yesterday I was able to see some very impressive Camino Real strawberries being picked in vicinity of Ponchatoula. This whole area has quite a tradition of strawberry growing that dates back to the early part of the last century, and at one point in 1930s there was a 23,000 plus acre industry here (http://lassencanyonnursery.com/barclay-poling-visits-louisiana-strawberry-growers/). Back in “the day” growers in Louisiana’s fresh market shipping industry grew varieties like Klondike (Fig. 2). image

Fig. 2. Picture  of heirloom variety Klondike, that was the main variety grown in Louisiana back in the 1920’s and 1930’s. It was actually selected right in Independence, LA, by R.L. Cloud, 1901.

There has not been an active strawberry breeding program in Louisiana for a number of years now. So, growers here do a lot of testing of varieties from other states, including California and Florida. From the University of Florida breeding program, Strawberry Festival, another short day variety, has done relatively well in Central Louisiana. Other Californa varieties being grown here include ‘San Andreas’ (Fig. 3). Albion, another CA day-neutral did not show as much promise in the Louisana climate. My personal impression is that this region needs to pretty much stick with the short day varieties (like Floriida). At one time, there was a lot of Camarosa in Louisana, but you can’t find any Camarosa plantings here now. Merced, another CA short day, could have potential application here, and would be worth evaluating (Fig. 5). Plants of both Merced and Camino Real are more compact and easier to pick than Camarosa or Chandler (there are still a few small plantings of Chandler here). For  now, it looks like the short day UC variety Camino Real has gone to the top of the class (Fig. 6).

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Fig. 3. San Andreas, a Univ. of CA day-neutral, is also being planted by LA growers. The row cover you see in the photo will be pulled back over the crop tonight to protect blooms from a possible frost event! Lousiana growers use row covers differently from growers in NC, SC, and VA. They actually suspend them so that blossoms in contact with the cover don’t get killed. With a “good frost” it is possible to lose 5% or more of the blossoms that are in direct contact with the cover.

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Fig. 4. Row covers are suspended and not allowed to float on top of strawberry plants in Louisiana’s Tangipahoa Parish.

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Fig. 5. Merced also produces very classy looking berries! This photo was taken in NC last spring season.

Before I head out for more visits today, let me leave you with this impressive photograph of a Camino Real flat (Fig. 5).

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Fig. 6. Very classy fruit of Camino Real – this flat is destined for a high end store like Whole Foods.

Have a great day!

Barclay Poling

p.s. If you happen to get down to Louisana during Mardi Gras, you’ve got to try King Cake! Delicious with morning coffee.

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