Prospects of strawberry cultivation in urban areas of India.
The cultivated strawberry (Fragaria × ananassa) has commanded a premier position in the world fruit market due to its attractive fruit and distinctive flavour. It has adapted well to highly varied climatic conditions. It is today commercially cultivated under extreme temperate conditions, sub-tropical and high altitudes of tropical regions and even in the desert-like area of Israel. Being a shallow rooted crop, both crop damage and plant mortality can occur during extremely dry seasons. It is one of the most delicious and refreshing fruit cherished in gardens and commercial plantations for its beautiful and attractive red fruits. Strawberry cultivation has only recently received a great impetus in India with large business houses setting up a number of agro-based establishments primarily aimed at large scale production of strawberry fruits. It has occupied a premier position in urban areas. Being a herbaceous annual fruit crop, it can also be grown easily in kitchen garden, roof garden, terrace garden, pots, inter cropping, etc. where space is a limiting factor especially in urban areas. It can be easily grown in tropical and sub-tropical climate during the winter months. It is regarded as a valuable food in the diet of millions of people around the globe and is in special demand by the fruit processing industries for preparing jams, ice cream, candy, toffee and other products. A number of large fruited, high yielding cultivars viz., 'Chandler', 'Pajaro', 'Etna', L'Sweet Charlie', 'Selva', 'Douglas', 'Confictura', 'Dana', 'Belrubi', 'Gorella', 'Ophra' and 'Addie' have been introduced into the country from Europe and North America. Some of the day-neutral cultivars are 'Selva', 'Majestic', 'Phenomenal', 'Brighton', 'Etna', 'Fern', 'Sweet Charlie', 'Ophra' are very promising. The use of polyethylene in commercial cultivation of strawberry can play a pivotal role in minimizing winter injury, plant mortality and increasing productivity. Covering the strawberry beds/pots with low clear plastic tunnels induced one month early cropping, prevented bed erosion and increased total yields by 25%. The black polyethylene mulched beds did not require any weeding. During summers (in hills) the polyethylene sheets of the tunnels were replaced by plastic anti-hail nets or anti-bird nets which resulted in advanced harvest, increased yield and improved fruit quality. It is highly commercialized fruit crop being sold at a premium price of Rs 200 to 300 kg-1 as an early crop and Rs 80 to 100 as a late crop. Being a shallow rooted annual crop, it can be fitted anywhere in urban horticulture development with little but frequent irrigation facility.