May 14, 2022

Data Farmer Digest: How to Optimize Strawberry Root Zone Environments with Substrates for Optimal Growth

Nordetect’s Data Farmer Digest is a knowledge center designed to support members of the AgTech industry through shared resources and knowledge. It's where we gather our most valuable learnings on leveraging data and technology for farms. Our goal is to enable growers, consultants, agronomists, and other AgTech professionals to improve their growth strategies.

In this month’s Data Farmer we’re focusing on strawberries’ sensitivity to root zone environment changes and how, with careful monitoring and application of substrates, you can optimize growth and yield.

Choosing the Right Substrate for Strawberry

Strawberries are fickle. Their shallow roots and frequent need for watering can pose challenges to optimal crop output. Any changes in the substrate mixture, or the soil or substance the plants are grown in, can have a detrimental effect on their progression. But with proper management of moisture and oxygen content in the root environment – their physical and chemical environment – you can support stronger development and reduce the margin of error throughout the stages of growth.

The most common substrates for strawberries are coconut coir, peat, and perlite, but how do you choose the magic mix to optimize your strawberry growth? Here are some key considerations for choosing the right substrate for your strawberries:

  • Porosity: It’s vital for the roots of your crop to get enough oxygen, which is why porosity is an essential consideration. Your substrate needs to contain enough pores of the right size to allow free airflow through the pot’s entire volume. Your strawberry crop requires high oxygen levels, so choosing a substrate with high porosity is important. For example, a substrate made of only coconut coir will impede plant growth but when mixed with perlite and peat moss, you can create an optimal root zone environment for strawberry growth.
  • pH Levels: Root zone pH should hover between 6.0 and 6.5. If the root zone pH exceeds 7.0, plants are likely to experience iron deficiency and stunted growth. To maintain these levels, the substrate pH needs to stay between 5.5 and 6.0. When it comes to managing substrate pH, you have many options. For instance, if your source water is too acidic and it’s affecting pH levels, adding ammonium nitrogen (NH4-N) can stabilize the root zone pH. However, this application needs to be precise. With too much NH4-N, plants will produce more shoots and fewer flowers. On the other hand, source water with a high pH can be supplemented with peat for better results.
  • Electrical Conductivity (EC): Electrical conductivity is an indicator of ion concentration in a solution. Since strawberries are more sensitive to salt build-up in the root zone than other hydroponic plants, it’s important to keep the EC below 1.0 dS/m. If the root zone EC exceeds 1.2 dS/m, you may need to flush the root zone with water to clear out any salt accumulation.
  • Irrigation: Strawberries are a thirsty crop, requiring frequent hydration. But their moisture content must be balanced so you don’t end up with a soggy root environment. You can calculate the optimal watering volume for your crop based on substrate quality and quantity. However, your watering frequency is dependent on factors such as microclimate, temperature, humidity, radiation, plant size, growing stage, and many more.
  • Volume/Container Height: While the substrate is a key component of a healthy crop, the type of container used for plants is equally important. Taller containers can accommodate better drainage and aeration. The recommended volume of the substrate is 2 liters per plant.

Finding the perfect substrate mix can be a complex process, but starting with these five factors gives you key starting points to reach optimal growth. It’s important to keep in mind that the chemical and physical properties of substrates can vary depending on the source, so test the substrate on a small sample before introducing them to your crop.

Want to digger deeper into the best strategies for successful hydroponic or semi-hydroponic strawberry growth? Check out some of our favorite resources and industry experts:

Have questions about how to test your crops’ nutrient levels? Contact us! We’re here to help you grow better, together.


Get our Data Farmer Digests directly in your inbox each month! Sign up for the monthly notification!

January 22, 2022

Data Farmer Digest: AgTech Industry Insights and Tips

Nordetect’s Data Farmer Digest is a knowledge center designed to support members of the AgTech industry through shared resources and knowledge. It's where we gather our most valuable learnings on leveraging data and technology for farms. Our goal is to enable growers, consultants, agronomists, and other AgTech professionals to improve their growth strategies.

This month’s Data Farmer covers nutrient and yield tips for growers, helpful articles, and interesting perspectives on vertical farming.

Tips for Higher Crop Yield

1. Is your basil citrusy or grassy?

David Hawley, Ph.D., principal scientist at Fluence by OSRAM, studies how light impacts crop aromas and flavors. For instance, basil grown under far-red-enriched white light was more earthy while basil grown under blue/UV-enriched white light was more citrusy. Growers can manipulate light not just to refine their crops and yield, but also to enhance a specific terpene profile.

Since secondary goals, like smell and flavor, often come at the cost of primary goals such as yield, it’s important for the cultivators to first establish their goals based on market demand. While maximizing yields is great, consider differentiating your product based on nutrition, aroma, and other sensory factors, especially if you’re a cannabis grower.

2. Nutrient analysis for hydroponic tomato production

Water and nutrient solution sampling should be conducted on a weekly basis to ensure tomatoes receive proper levels of nutrients. Conduct the sampling at the two sources:

  1. Feed: The nutrient solution pumped from the irrigation system to the plants.
  2. Drain: The leachate from the substrate. This is critical to an effective fertilization strategy.

“In applying fertilizer to a plant grown either in soil or in a soilless medium, the goal is to match the nutrient uptake of the crop as closely as possible to the amount provided as fertilizer,” said Mary Peet, USDA, Division of Plant Systems-Production.

Using a portable nutrient analyzer, like Nordetect’s system, allows growers to test samples and receive real-time results right in the field. This creates the opportunity to optimize crop nutrients on the spot. Your nutrient analyzer should help you track nutrients consumed by the plants and the efficiency of your irrigation system over time. These types of data inform your growing decisions and help you produce the best outcomes.


If your current analyzer isn’t supporting your needs, or you’re just exploring which nutrient management system is right for your operation, we’d welcome the opportunity to talk through your nutrient challenges and discover how Nordetect can support you.

3. To perfect cannabis is to reduce environmental fluctuations

Jessica McKiel of Cannabis Tech talks about how the answers to environmental fluctuations in an indoor grow facility are precise controls and faster reactions. She collates a list of non-negotiable data points we need to track and micro-manage to improve our harvest.

Articles That Caught Our Eye

  • A Closer Look at LED Efficacy: In 2018, DesignLights Consortium (DLC) established technical requirements for LED-based horticultural lighting products. A product that meets or exceeds a minimum PPE of 1.9 μmol∙J⁻¹ is relatively energy efficient, long lasting, safe to use, and tolerant of growing conditions (e.g., high humidity). Erik Runkle, professor and floriculture extension specialist in the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University predicts that horticultural LEDs can increase in efficacy by around 25%.
  • FoodTank’s Winter 2022 Book List: Resources to Strengthen Local Food Systems: Whether you’re an engineer working in AgTech or a consumer, this reading list is sure to get you thinking about food security for your community. With numerous stories intersecting people, food, technology, and policy, you’ll want to add these books to your best-reads list.
  • An Unspoken Benefit of EVs: Less Auto Fluids Washed Into Our Waterways: Sure, Electric Vehicles bring tons of environmental benefits; they prevent oil spills, reduce carbon emissions, use recyclable materials, and more. However, one major benefit rarely spoken about is this: unlike other cars, EVs don’t need automotive fluids to run! With 180 million gallons of auto fuels washed into water bodies in the US alone, this is just one more reason to invest in an electric vehicle.

3 Interesting Perspectives Changing Food Systems

1. “We have false dichotomies. We have people saying, we want to go back to farming as it happened 200 years ago because it will be closer to an older system and that will be replicable. But those systems also had failures. And then there are new innovations, like technology-driven systems, but they may not be accessible in many rural areas. We say it's rural against urban and never the twain shall meet. We talk about farmers and consumers as if they aren’t in a food system that intersects. These challenges seem to be pitting our food against our plant, but in fact, the whole food system needs all these pieces to work together.”

Robynne Anderson talking about the Future of Food Systems at Agritecture’s Digital Conference Series

2. "In a greenhouse, [the] limiting factor for when we can grow these [berry] plants is it’s really hard to maintain cool enough conditions in the summertime. If we have high night temperatures above the low 60s, we get poorer berry production and poorer fruit quality."

Neil Mattson, Cornell University at the Empire State Producers Expo 2022: Berry Production in Containers

3. “Having owned and operated restaurants in my past, I saw that that was an area that I wanted to get back to. And I saw that my real estate experience would play into that because I knew how to put together deal structures. And I felt that farming, and urban farming in particular, had a tremendous opportunity with the right deal structure. And that’s how I got into it.”

Michael Sichenzia, Managing Director at Go Global Advisors talking about Blueprint for Launching a Successful Vertical Farm


Stay tuned for our next Data Farmer Digest! Want to be notified each month to keep up? Sign up for this monthly newsletter!

logo-symbol-brightgreen

North America

c / o NextCorps
260 E Main St # 6000
Rochester, NY 14604
United States

Europe

Nordetect ApS
Ole Maaløes Vej 3,
2200 Copenhagen N
Denmark

Stay updated on Nordetect product news.

THIS STARTS MOBILE FOOTER

Product   |  About Us   |  News   |  Join Us   | Privacy Policy  

North America

c / o NextCorps
260 E Main St #6000
Rochester, NY 14604
United States

Europe

Nordetect ApS
Ole Maaløes Vej 3,
2200 Copenhagen N
Denmark

Stay updated on Nordetect product news.
footer-supergraphic