Hydroculture is a system of techniques that permit to cutivate fruit and vegetable products in greenhouses on an inert substrate or not, through an oprimal managing of the elements that determine the quality of plants and of the product: temperature, irrigation, light, etc.
Hydroculture in general, and that of strawberries in particular, permits to optimize all the elements responsible for the quality of the plant and of the final product, guaranteeing a high production and a better quality, eliminating problems that come with the cultivation in ground (dirty, slowness, fungi, mould) and standardizing the production.
Furthermore, hydroponic cultivation of strawberries can be done also at home, for smaller cultivations, thanks to low prices and to the fact that installation is very easy.
In the world fruit and vegetable sector, the introduction of the soilless cultivation of strawberries was enhanced by specific structural and environmental condition of this cultivar: in recent years, in fact, the cultivation of strawberries has had a very fast evolution, changing from the classic cultivation in the ground to the soilless cultivation on a substrate and in particular on bags of peat.
With hydroponics strawberries are constantly kept in optimal nutritional conditions, as techniques used guarantee better phytosanitary conditions and a more clean product; as a result, we have strawberries superior in quality, with a better appearance, a uniform size, better intrinsic characteristics (less content of raw fiber, a higher percentage of sugars, fats and vitamins, a higher specific weight), a lower availability and finally a better resistance to long distance transport.
Strawberries cultivated with the hydroponic techniques are protected through different types of tunnels that, according to the costs of investment and amortization, bring air from the heads and from the sides or from the tops and the sides: they usually are single plastic films that last 3-4 years, with medium characteristics of light and a good warmth.
The bags for the cultivations can be laid against a series of pedestal rows or hanged at a hight at which the product can be easily reached by farmers.
Plants of strawberries are planted out in plastic bags (4-6 per bag) of 10-12 liters each, with size ranging from 20-25 cm in width and 35-40 cm in length.
These bags usually contain white peat and perlite in variable percentages.
Recently in Netherlands has spread also the habit to use bags with mineral wool, which seems to give good results as to production and to ease any changes in fertilization and irrigation needed by hydroponic cultivations of strawberries.
However, there are many type of hydroponic cultivations for the production of strawberries, which differ for the way in which water reaches the roots of the plant.
In general we distinguish:
- Hydroponic cultivation of strawberries with substrate
- Hydroponic cultivation of strawberries without substrate
- Hydroponic cultivation of strawberries with drip system irrigation.
- Hydroponic cultivation of strawberries with seepage irrigation
- Hydroponic cultivation of strawberries with an open system
- Hydroponic cultivation of strawberries with a closed system
In hydroponic cultivation, all the varieties mentioned in the section "The varieties of strawberries" can be used, however the most common are:
- OSTARA: everbearing variety, harvested starting from June, with typical big, cone shaped fruits and a juicy and firm flesh. This variety has an incomparable flavour, is very productive and very resistant to diseases. It is usually sold in pots.
- MARA DE BOIS: everbearing variety, harvested from June to December, with a flavour that reminds that of woodland strawberries. it is a very productive variety, with about 900 gr of strawberries produced per stem. This variety of cone shaped strawberries, is recommended especially for desert recipes.
- MAESTRO: everbearing variety of strawberries, whose fruits are juicy, with a firm flesh and very tasty. This hydroponic variety of strawberries was once better known with the name "Mareva", but it was later modified in "Maestro". This variety replaces the "Gento" for its fast and strong rooting, the hardy vegetation and the level of production, that can reach up to 1kg of fruits produced per plant.
- GARIGUETTE: Early season variety of strawberries, harvested from the 15th May to the 15th June, with long, bright red and flavoured fruits.