Report #2: Strawberries
Pathway: The strawberry belongs to the family Rosaceae, genus Fragaria. They are one of the most widely consumed fruit throughout the world. This fruit can grow pretty much anywhere except places with extreme climate change. The United States is the largest producer of strawberries in the world. The U.S. strawberry growers mostly use fields to grow this perennial crop whereas other places use mostly greenhouses due to shorter growing seasons. The strawberries that we can buy from Hy-Vee here in Cedar Rapids come from California. California is the number one producer of this fruit in America and accounts for about 80% of the total U.S. strawberry production. As for the path that it fallows when talking about the strawberries they we can get from our local store it starts in California fields where the strawberries are grown. The process starts in different nurseries usually in the northern colder climates because young strawberry plants thrive in those conditions. The commercial farmers buy their “crowns” from these places because it takes usually about two to three months longer to grow a strawberry plant from a seed. These crowns are then shipped south to California where in late August most strawberry producers begin preparing their land the new planting of strawberries. Even though strawberry plants are perennial, most strawberry farmers use them as annuals so they can grow more in a shorter amount of time. After all the strawberries have been harvested, the land is fertilized and plowed. After fertilization and plowing, the soil is mounded, placed into rows and covered with black or white plastic. Usually, when the plastic is laid, drip tape irrigation is simultaneously placed in the ground. These tasks are accomplished with a specialized tractor-machine. The drip tape will be used to water and fertilize the strawberry plants as they grow and produce fruit. After the ground is raised and covered, the plants must be planted. This is done by hand, usually about two weeks after the plastic cover has been laid. To do this a tractor is used to mechanically punch holes in the plastic. Workers usually either ride or follow behind the tractor and place plugs into the punched holes. This process usually takes the longest amount of time do to the face that they have to be planted by hand. Strawberries grow and ripen fast and must be picked everyday on a strawberry farm. The next step in the process is picking the ripe fruit. The number of workers required to pick differs from farm to farm, but a general average amount of workers is about 65 to 70 workers. As each picker moves from plant to plant they pick the ripe red strawberries and pack them into plastic containers right in the field. They then take their harvest to a waiting refrigerated truck where they will then be taken to a cooling facility. This is the most important step in the process because they are highly perishable and if they are not refrigerated quickly it will reduce the number of fruit that will make it to the store. From the cooling facility it is shipped all the way here to Iowa and all around the country. The distance that these strawberries are shipped is about 1,820 miles. To put that is perspective if a truck gets about 20 miles a gallon that’s about 180 gallons of gas round trip. That also doesn’t include the gas it takes to deliver the strawberries to the shipping facility and back. Some of the inputs that commercial producers rely on include preplant fumigation with methyl bromide, plastic mulch, drip irrigation, preplant chilling, fertilization with slow-release nutrients, synthetic pesticides and hand labor throughout the season. Some of the outputs include runoff of pesticides, air emissions from the trucks, tractors, cooling facilities, and the plants themselves. Other outputs could include habitat loss due to the space needed to grow strawberries, waste from the different things used such as the plastic...
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