Faculty Mentor: Javier Fernandez-Salvador
Department: Crop and Soil Science, and Marion County Small Farms Program
Strawberries in Oregon are a high-value product that provides high-quality, local, flavorful fruit. This project will focus on production of Organic dayneutral strawberries for the fresh-market. This will contribute to the larger work of the Berry Research Initiative, which conducts research to assist our Oregon growers in developing better production practices for Oregon berries. Students have the option to develop a research project focused on a specific aspect of Strawberry crop biology, cultural production practices, or pest management. The student will work in the field at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (in Aurora) on an Organic strawberry plot with low tunnels. The chosen student will develop their research project and experimental design in early Winter term, set up and plant the experiment in late winter term, and manage the field and collect data during Spring term. The student will be expected to collaborate and communicate with the entire team, and is highly encouraged to continue as a summer researcher if it is a good fit.
Strawberries for fresh market are commonly grown on raised beds in plasticulture to achieve better weed management, temperature regulation, and water drainage. These strawberry cultivars are “day-neutral” and therefore produce fruit all season long, beginning in late-May and continuing through early October depending on the season’s weather conditions. This harvest period can be extended, and the fruit quality improved, through the use of angled beds, low tunnels for frost and precipitation protection, and optimized pest-management practices. Growers who use Organic practices can achieve significant price premiums on their fruit, as the demand for local, Organic strawberries remains high and the production does not meet the levels of demand. We seek a student to help develop a project related to the production of Organic Strawberry in the Willamette Valley. We currently have one established field with low tunnels, and we intend to plant a second field for the 2020 season. Potential projects could focus on biological management practices including fertilizer application, the use of cover crops in aisles, soil solarization to control weeds, bed-shape, or renovation timing for plant renewal and optimized yield; cultural practices including low tunnel type or conventional plastic mulch versus biodegradable mulches; and pest management including Organic methods for lygus bug (bug vacuum, pesticides). Students will have the ability to include cultivar as a treatment, selecting among common Oregon day-neutral varieties (e.g. Sweet Ann, Seascape, Albion).
Description of Student Responsibilities
The student will be expected to work ~10 hours a week on this project from the beginning of Winter 2020 term to the end of the Spring 2020 term depending on funding and work availability. During this time, the student intern will be expected to spend an estimated total of: (a) 40 hours assisting with the preparation of the study, (b) 100 hours preparing the planting, managing the crop, and collecting data, and (3) 40 hours on campus giving regular progress reports at team meetings and collaborating with student coworkers. Additional duties include literature review, data collection and analysis, and writing up results. The student may be given opportunities for more hours if they are a good fit for the team and are interested in more work. The student will have a flexible schedule, but will be required to meet with the mentor and other team members once a week to give a progress report and receive training. Scheduling may need to be adjusted depending on weather and the needs of the project. Most student field work will take place at the North Willamette Research and Extension Center (Aurora, 1 hour drive from campus). The team typically schedules 1-2 work days per week at NWREC and coordinates carpooling at the start of each term, with fewer days at NWREC during project development in winter and more days at NWREC during data collection in spring.
Students are expected to have a basic understanding of plant biology, academic research, and data collection. Previous experience with field research and knowledge of experimental design, note-taking, and log-keeping is preferred, but not required. Good organization, communication, and problem solving will be critical to student success. In addition, the student must have an interest in agriculture, especially in the development of new techniques in a Certified Organic setting.
The chosen student will actively participate in the development and management of the entire research project, including but not limited to: field preparation, trial set-up, planting and field maintenance, data collection, harvest, analysis, and write-up. The mentor will provide training on research and field trial management basics, study design, and data collection and analysis, as necessary. There will be additional learning opportunities to prepare and develop educational materials and activities based on the results of the trial. Students will likely learn to use hand tools, power tools, and learn strawberry production methods.
Expected start and end date: Start date – Jan 6, 2020. End date – June 12, 2020. Highly encouraged to continue as a summer full-time student researcher.
Anticipated hours per week: 5 hours for the first 2-3 weeks, then 10 hours/week once the team schedule for the term is established
Anticipated hourly wage: $11.25