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Time strawberries to bloom just after apples for better harvest

Washington: You may want to set your strawberry alarm clock for the post-apple bloom as according to a recent study, doing so can reap a better harvest.

When apple trees blossom, the sheer abundance of flowers attracts most of the pollinators, which leaves fewer bees for other nearby crops such as strawberries and lowers their yields.

But if growers time their strawberries to flower directly after a neighbouring apple bloom, strawberries produce higher yields than they would if there were no apple trees nearby.

The findings offer growers a sustainable method for boosting yields of crops that bloom around the same time as apples.

“We are trying to figure out ways that growers can use ecosystem services to promote crop yield rather than relying on external inputs, such as fertilizers and pesticides,” said lead author Heather Grab.

Planting natural habitats around farm fields can lead to improved health of pollinators and a boost in their services, according to research. But for many growers in agriculturally dense areas, increasing natural habitats is not an option.

“Those growers need some more sustainable agriculture options,” Grab said. “If growers pay attention to timing of when crops are blooming and manipulate that by planting apple varieties and strawberry varieties that don’t overlap, you can get a boost in yield that is almost equivalent to having natural habitat nearby.”

Future work will investigate whether this strategy also holds benefits for the pollinators, as food sources are spread out over time rather than having a large glut of food that is followed by less availability.

The study appears in the issue of Scientific Reports. (ANI)