Chinyere Anyanwu, [email protected]
Among fruits that pack nutrients and great taste, in addition to wealth creation potential, strawberry comes highly ranked. A strawberry is a sweet, red, heart-shaped fruit, which is well-loved for its delicious taste and nutritional benefits.
Strawberry cultivation in Nigeria is still an untapped goldmine despite its huge acceptance as a fruit in the country. Farmers and agribusiness investors who venture into this line of farming stand to reap great benefits as the market is readily available. Farming strawberry involves passion, experience, and capital.
In Nigeria, strawberry farming is mostly done in Plateau State due to the state’s cold climate but that does not mean it can’t be grown in other parts of the country. It only requires agribusiness practitioners in other parts of the country to try out the crop in their regions. It will thrive as long as it is grown in the right conditions with enough access to sunlight, water and the right nutrient-rich soil. Harsh sun can damage the plant, especially during the earlier growth phases. Access to enough shade is important.
There is huge profit potential in strawberry farming. On the average, a kilogramme of strawberry costs about N1000 and each packaged carton can weigh up to 5-6kg.
Varieties of strawberry: There are different varieties of strawberry sold across the country, including honeoye, earliglow, allstar, ozark beauty, chandler, jewel, seascape, tristar, sparkle, surecrop and fort laramie, but there are two major varieties of strawberry that can grow in Nigeria. They are the June-bearing variety and the ever-bearing variety, which are capable of giving good yield.
Uses of strawberry: Apart from being eaten raw, the fruit is useful in various industries, among which are the cosmetic industry, for the production of fragrant and flavoured lotions, face washes, body oils and shampoos; food processing industry for production of ice creams, jams, jellies, squashes, syrups, candies, and chocolates; and in the pharmaceutical industry for the production of tablets, medicines, protein bars, protein shakes, and supplements.
Health benefits of strawberry
Improves heart function: It improves heart function because it contains antioxidants that help lower the risk of cardiovascular diseases by inhibiting the formation of bad cholesterol.
Prevents stroke: The anti-inflammatory power of the antioxidants and chemicals called malonate esters found in strawberry help prevent the formation of blood clots that are linked with stroke.
Prevents cancer: The antioxidants in strawberries fight cancer and tumour growth.
Boosts brain function: Strawberry is rich in iodine, vitamin C, and phytochemicals, which help maintain the proper functioning of the nervous system. Potassium, also in strawberry, has been linked to an improved cognitive function by increasing blood flow to the brain.
Skin care: Strawberry-based formulations for cosmetic purposes can protect the skin against UV-induced damage.
Eye care: Strawberry can prevent eye conditions like dry eyes, degeneration of the optic nerves, macular degeneration, vision defects, among others.
Boost immunity: Vitamin C in strawberry boosts the immune system and helps in curing common cough and cold.
Relieves arthritis pains: The abundant antioxidants and detoxifiers in strawberry help reduce arthritis pain. They also aid in preventing arthritis symptoms such as degeneration of muscles and tissues, drying up of the lubricating fluids in the joints, and accumulation of toxic substances and acids in the body.
Prevents birth defects: The folic acid content of strawberry is a necessary nutrient during pregnancy, which helps to prevent birth defects.
Bone health: Strawberry has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties and may help fight osteoarthritis. Also, manganese, vitamins C and K, and potassium in the fruit help improve bone health.
Land selection/preparation: Land for strawberry business should be accessible to a good water source. Good and proper irrigation system ensures improved productivity of the strawberry fruits. The land should have adequate exposure to sunlight because the fruit needs about six to eight hours of sunlight daily. The land needs to be properly tilled and cleared for the cultivation of strawberry fruits.
Ensure that disease-resistant variety is purchased from a reputable nursery. The planting hole should be deep and wide enough to accommodate the whole root system without bending it. Once planting has been done, ensure the root is covered while the crown should be at the soil surface.
Strawberry should not be planted in lands that had been cultivated with tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and potatoes. Strawberry planting spacing should be 30cm apart between the rows. Runners from the parent plant can be used as seeds for another planting season. There is no need to buy another seedling once the first plot of land has been cultivated.
Caring for the strawberry vine: Irrigation is important for optimal growth and development of strawberry fruits due to the shallow roots. There is need to water the plant well once the runners and flowers start to develop. Once the plants have attained maturation, the irrigation process must be reduced. Over-watering can kill the plants and can also lead to stunted growth as well as cause the fruit to have “watery” taste. Watering should be reduced as the rain picks up.
The beds must be mulched in order to reduce water loss and weed proliferation. Weeding should be done manually during the first months of planting the strawberry.
Strawberry needs regular maintenance and when the plant is well taken care of it can provide bountiful harvest of plump strawberries for years to come.
Pruning: This should be done in cases where leaves start to die off or the fruits start to drop away. Parts of the plant should be removed so that there will be enough left for it to continue growing.
Pest control: Strawberry often attracts all sorts of critters and creatures that might be after the fruits and berries. As a general rule, plants should be treated with a natural anti-insect spray at least a few times a year. Chemicals which can negatively affect the plants or harvest must be avoided.
Strawberry diseases: It’s important to protect strawberry fruits from fungal diseases. The plant is prone to the development of verticillium fungus. This fungus causes verticillium wilt or verticillium rot, which is one of the most common strawberry diseases affecting the crop. If the plant develops this disease, it ends the fruiting period of the plant, killing off any developing fruit.
There is no way to treat verticillium wilt or verticillium rot, and if the plants develop this fungus, they have to be dug up and thrown away. There will be need to pull out the infected plants as soon as possible to avoid the fungus spreading to other fruits.
Harvesting: Strawberries should be left on the plant for two days after they change colour. This additional time gives the sugars in the fruit time to mature, increasing its sweet taste. Ripe strawberry is sensitive to touch, and can be easily bruised if not carefully picked from the plant. The best harvesting method involves taking the stem of the strawberry between the thumb and index finger, using the fingernail to severe the stem to release the fruit from the plant. This method won’t damage the fruit.
With additional materials from Organicfacts