Using a plasticulture system to grow strawberries on raised beds with black plastic mulch and drip tape, another grower has managed to extend his production season.

Planting strawberries using a plasticulture system

Shawn Wright, horticulture specialist at UK's Robinson Center for Appalachian Resource Sustainability, worked with Bob Craycraft of Craycraft's Greenhouse and Landscaping in Vanceburg, who was recruited for the project by Lewis County agriculture extension agent Philip Konopka. Craycraft, was looking for something profitable that would keep his crew employed earlier in the season.

“The advantage to the system is that the strawberries come on earlier in the season,” said Wright. “He (Craycraft) wanted to check it out to see if it would increase his cash flow early in the season.”

Wright provided the strawberry transplants using funding from the Kentucky Horticulture Council, while Konopka supplied the equipment and other resources. Craycraft put the transplants in the ground in the fall of 2017 and harvested the berries the following spring.

Wright said the cost to install the system runs between $7,000 and $10,000 an acre, and growers are hesitant to make that kind of investment. But the reward for the quality of the strawberries can be quite delicious.

“There are growers throughout the state that have been using the system for many years now, and it can be profitable,” he said. Craycraft could not have been more pleased.

“The strawberries were just wonderful, and people went nuts over them,” he said. “The one bad thing is, we ran out.” Craycraft has already put more transplants in the ground than he did last year. He said if he has another good year, he will add more transplants next fall.

“These aren't the strawberries you are going to go out and buy 40 quarts to make some jam,” Wright said. “These are nice, big, fresh strawberries that may be selling between $4 and $6 a quart, as opposed to $2 a quart late in the season.

-- Jeff Franklin