How to grow strawberries in Israel
Growing garden strawberry or strawberry is a highly profitable sector of farming industry. In case of year-round growing in a greenhouse the profitability is 70-100% with payback during the very first season.
Different natural factors such as stone land, desertification of 60% of the territory, scanty rainfall and lack of fresh water, complicate the development of the farming industry in Israel. Nowadays the farming industry produces enough crop to provide the local population with required products. Also it enables export to other countries and continents. In fact, one of the main reasons is considerable government financing of scientific researches and developments. That is done along with rapid manufacturing application of innovations.
Growing strawberry in Israel
Farmers in Israel mostly grow strawberry in greenhouses that occupy a territory of 400 hectares. In 2017 the total harvest was 30,000 tons. Harvesting and sales are done during the winter period from November to May. That is because the most favorable temperature for strawberries is in winter. Farms are working on mastering technologies for growing strawberries in summer. In mountain kibbutzes (agricultural communes) Merom Golan and Ramat Rachel they practice year-round growing.
Garden strawberry mostly grows in the Sharon region. Surprisingly, the best harvest of garden strawberry is collected in greenhouses in the very heart of the Arava desert. Since 2000, ecologically clean production without the use of pesticides has been promoted. So you can be sure that Israeli strawberries are safe for health. Besides, each tourist can visit a greenhouse or a plantation and eat as many berries as he can right from the bush.
Strawberry harvest in Israel reaches 200 tons per hectare. Advanced farms install automated greenhouses and eliminate the influence of natural factors.
Popular cultivars of Israeli strawberries: Tamar, Yael, Sheik, Orly, Rocky, Ruthhey, Herut, Hadas, Barak, Yuval. Breeders are trying to improve taste, transportability, crop yield, marketability (shape, size and aroma) and adaptive properties in hot climate.
Features of strawberry growing technology
The Israeli technology of strawberry growing is based on hydroponics. This method implies dosated plant nutrition with fertilizers through a system of drip irrigation.
Plant roots are in an airy, inert sterile substrate. Thereby the substrate solves two problems: it provides good aeration of roots and reduces risk of fungal diseases.
Farmers install a metal frame in the greenhouse and after that they attach the plastic channels for the substrate at a height of 1 – 1.5 meters.
Attributes of Israeli technology:
- the use of everbearing strawberries;
- processes automation: control over microclimate parameters, calculation and preparation of nutrient solution, drip irrigation, light intensity;
- hydroponics with the use of coco coir substrate;
- introduction of a biological method in pest control;
- raising beds for better ventilation and easier harvest.
Strawberry harvest in Israel is semi-automatic. The workers move along the aisles in a special transport. They manually collect and put berries into containers ready for sale. Thus improving keeping capacity and transportability. After collecting they cool down the berries.
Some people believe that strawberry grown according to the Israeli technology is watery and tasteless. Moreover skeptics even believe it to be a source of toxins and chemicals. These delusions are easy to refute.
Taste of hydroponically grown berries differs from the taste of strawberries grown on soil due to the features of everbearing varieties. Considering rapid growth and multiple bearing, the berries just don’t have time to accumulate a lot of sugar. For example, if you eat a remontant berry grown on soil you can feel the difference in taste with the regular one. Though they grow in the same conditions, the sugar content is different.
When breeding industrial varieties Israeli breeders focus on:
- transportability: berries are more dense;
- early maturity: fast yielding ability;
- crop capacity: increasing amount and size of berries;
- decreased sensitivity to daylight hours duration;
- resistance to diseases: gray rot and spot disease.
Over the past 5 years, taste requirements are increasing and farmers claim that you will never find a strawberry sweeter than theirs.
The statement about mineral fertilizers overfeeding is also unfair. Strawberry is not a cucumber and it doesn’t require nitrate nitrogen to grow. Imbalance will have an opposite effect. Besides, such fertilizers cost a lot, so no one will excessively use them to feed the plants.
Another myth – chemicals in berries. Considering that bumblebees are used for garden strawberry pollination, usage of pesticides is strongly bounded. Israeli farmers prefer the biological method of pest control. To reduce the development of diseases they apply different agricultural methods. However, all garden strawberry diseases are a consequence of overwetting and contact with infected soil. The Israeli strawberry greenhouse is equipped with a moisture control system. Thanks to that nematode worms and fungi spores will not appear in the substrate. Seedlings growing technology excludes possibility of viral diseases.
Main manufacturers and exchange of experience
Each farmer or a holding company specialist can come and see himself the process of strawberry growing in Israel. Israeli scientists and farmers gladly share their experience. Also they offer their help in supporting business. The Alecon company arranges on-site training courses and seminars for foreign farmers.
You can order a turnkey greenhouse directly from the manufacturer. Israeli technology requires significant financing at first, but 100% profitability compensates it.
Strawberry is grown in the following kibbutzes: Kadima, Ein Yahav, Geulim, Gan Shmuel, Mishmar HaSharon, Yesha.
The largest strawberry farm is Joseph Farm.
In addition, there are open for visitors plantations. In case of interest tourists can see how strawberries are grown in Israel. The following farms offer such kind of excursion: Meshek Bagiva, Agronen, Meshek-6, Meshek Tal, Ruach Shtut, Stalbetut, Sadot, Uri Tutim Farm, Ariel, Tut Gil.
You can see large ripe berries of Israel strawberries in the photos taken by people who already visited the plantations.