Pakistan is producing a limited quantity of strawberries which are either eaten or used in preparing ice-cream, jam, jelly, pickle, cake or milk shake. The fruit fetches Rs100 to Rs120 per kg in big cities.
Strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa Duch.) plant is a member of the Rosaceae family. The edible portion is a multiple fruit comprised of many achenes (seeds) and receptacle tissue. Fruit are produced during winter when days are short in many growing areas. Strawberry is well- known as the one of the most exotic, appetizing and very nutritive fruit. They are used in preparing smoothies, flavored milk, fruit juices, stuffed chocolate, confectionery , in cosmetics, hair products and also in perfumes. It is adapted to a wide range of climatic zones. The word strawberry comes from the Old English words “streowberie” or “streawbelige”. There are a few theories about how they got their name. The “straw” bit could come from the straw that was used to keep the strawberries fresh, or it may have come from “strewed”, which means to spread wide. According to agricultural experts it has huge dietetic value and one of the abundant source for protein, carbohydrates, fats and vitamins. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over 4.5 million tons (4 million tons) of strawberries are cultivated each year, with the main producers in the United States, Turkey, Spain, Egypt, and Mexico. In Pakistan it is grown on an area of around 78 hectares with annual production of about 274 tones. The areas where strawberry being cultivated in Pakistan are plains of Ghotki, Panu Akil, Ranipur, Shaheed Benazirabad, Gilgit, Chitral, Kaghan, Kohistan, Swat, Mingora, Multan, Narowal, Bhawalpur, Chistian, Sialkot and Faisalabad.
Main varieties of strawberry which are cultivated in Pakistan are Douglas and Toro appropriate for southern areas of Pakistan whereas Chandler, Cruz Pocahontas and Tufts are suitable for Islamabad and Honeyo, Chandler, Gorella and Corona are recommended for Swat. Strawberries are the best (sweetest) when fully ripened on the plant. It’s best to leave them on the plant for a day or two after they turn red. If unsure of ripeness, give them a taste test. A high-quality strawberry is uniformly red, firm, flavorful, and free of defects and disease. Sugar content does not increase after harvest; therefore, harvest when fully ripe for best flavor. Maturity is based on surface color. According to International Standards the maturity is half or three-fourths of the berry’s surface showing red or pink color, depending on grade.
Strawberries are extremely perishable, and it is important to begin cooling within an hour of harvest to avoid loss of quality and reduction in amount of marketable fruit. Temperature management is the single most important factor in minimizing strawberry deterioration and maximizing postharvest life. Optimum storage conditions are 0° Centigrade with 90 to 95% relative humidity. Disease is the greatest cause of postharvest loss. The most common decay is botrytis rot, also called gray mold, caused by Botrytis Cinerea .The fungus continues to grow at 0°C, but growth is slow at this temperature. This fungus cannot grow at temperatures <5 °C. Rhizopus rot, caused by Rhizopus stolonifer, is another important disease of strawberry. The loss in the production of strawberries are due to following reasons, If you do planting in Fall then great problems are created with weed and cost. So, Early spring is an ideal time for planting. Intercropping is well justified so long as the strawberries do not interfere with the culture of the tree fruits, which represent a much greater investment. If you do not do mulching (treatment of soil with usually organic matter such as leaves, straw, or peat, placed around plants to prevent the evaporation of moisture and the freezing of roots) in given month only then flower buds will be created. So, Mulching is necessary to protect flower buds from temperatures below -10°C and to protect crowns (a form of plant disease) from inflicting damage .Yields are more frequently reduced from lack of water, poor soil drainage, and poor soil physical properties than from lack of fertilizer. Weeds are also produced in the field of strawberries which will a great loss for gross product. So, Pre-plan harrowing (smoothing soil surface) of a prepared field will reduce weed populations. When the strawberries are in field then insects also attack this will hamper our crop. So, Rotation of strawberries with other cultivated crops is useful in controlling insects.
According to Strawberry Farmers & Sellers, It is a profitable business and farm owners are earning between Rs120 million to Rs130 million annually. Production capacity of this fruit is 18 tons per 05 Acres with 100% capacity utilization .Total Cost Estimates is Rs. 838,500 with fixed investment Rs. 189,000 and working capital Rs. 649,500.All this proves that Pakistan also has great potential in strawberries production but we need to work on certain areas to achieve it. First of all we need to improve our knowledge in successful production of this fruit. Secondly special training should be provided to strawberries farmers for better production because Strawberries are very delicate and easily damaged. As the harvest crew is responsible for grading, packing, and gentle handling, their training is critical for producing quality final product. Fertile land and its maintenance during the period of cultivation ,Special attention towards healthy and certified seeds, land preparation, sowing pattern, water management, fertilizer application and marketing is required. Timely control of pests, diseases and implementation of all recommended agronomics measures are necessary.Appropriate post-harvest arrangement for washing, grading, packing and transportation of product to the market. Use of high quality hybrid seeds. Proper soil analysis for determining soil nutritional level.Storage is vital part of strawberry production thereforespecial attention should be given to this sector. By following these guidelines Pakistan can also emerge as a key producer and exporter of strawberries.
Syed Mudabbar Hussain Shah
The Author is final year student of
B.Sc (Hons.) in Food Engineering
Department of Food Engineering
University of Agriculture, Faisalabad