By Irum Sarfaraz

Strawberries are gaining popularity as a crop in nearly all regions of Tennessee. The total production of strawberries in the state in 2003 was valued at nearly $10 million and the acreage allotted to the fruits has steadily seen an increase in the past decade. The only drawback to growing strawberries in Tennessee are the heavy and frequent rainfalls and extreme cold during peak bloom time which consequently affects strawberry yields. The best strawberry varieties for the state include the cold hardy and the ones that are resistant to water-borne diseases.

Allstar is among the most popular strawberry types grown in Tennessee. Allstar strawberries are ready for harvest during early summer in June and the fruit is almost as large as plums. The strawberries are firm, extra juicy and bright red in color. Allstar is particularly suited to Tennessee weather due to its high resistance to frost. The June bearing strawberry plants such as Allstar produce a single large crop once a year during a two to three week period. When Allstar plants start to get blooms while the plants are still in the process of getting established, it is recommended to pinch off the early blooms as this leads to more prolific fruit crop the next year.

Earliglow strawberry variety is a recommended variety for Tennessee. The variety is well suited to the unpredictable rain patterns of Tennessee and is highly resistant to root rot, verticillium wilt and red steele. Earliglow is a favorite variety used for canning and plants produce high yields of sweet, flavorful, deep red fruit of uniform, conical shape. Earliglow is a June bearing variety that adapts to the climatic conditions in the mid-Atlantic, northeast and Midwest. Earliglow is hardy to temperatures of -10 degrees F and reaches a mature height of 8 to 10 inches. The strawberry plants are self-pollinating and the flowers bloom in May.

Cardinal is a recommended strawberry variety for Tennessee. The variety was developed by J.N. Moore, H.L. Bowden and W.A. Sistrunk of the Arkansas Agricultural Experimental Station. The fruit is glossy red, firm, large sized and is very good for freezing or eating fresh. Cardinal strawberries perform well in Tennessee and the south central states around Arkansas and the eastern states of North Carolina and Maryland. Cardinal strawberries are a June-bearing variety and the plants are vigorous and highly resistant to powdery mildew, leaf spot and leaf scorch. Cardinal plants have high yields and optimal shipping qualities which make it a very good variety for the pick-your-own farms.