University of Arkansas scientists tour Belgian strawberry research facility

University of Arkansas researchers gear up to look at
better ways to grow strawberries in controlled environment production

Tom Van Delm, coordinator of strawberry research at
Research Centre Hoogstraten (Proefcentrum Hoogstraten) in Belgium, hosted a
tour for University of Arkansas horticulture researchers. The Research Centre
conducts studies on strawberries, tomatoes and peppers. Gerson Van’t Wout, import/export
manager at Hort Americas, joined the tour and filed this report.
Van Delm (left), coordinator of strawberry
research at Research Centre
Hoogstraten, talks
with University of Arkansas horticulture professor
Evans about the strawberry research being
done at the Belgian facility.

Strawberry specifics
The University of Arkansas researchers were at the Research
Centre to look at the various aspects of strawberry production being studied.
Although many of the systems being used to produce strawberries, including the
use of gutters, drip irrigation, fertigation and supplemental lighting are
similar to what American greenhouse vegetable growers are currently using,
Van’t Wout said that there are differences in how the crops are grown. He said
there will be a learning curve for U.S. growers who want to add
greenhouse-grown strawberries to their product mix.

strawberry production systems,
including NFT troughs, are being studied at
Centre Hoogstraten in Belgium.

Belgian strawberry growers who have switched to greenhouse
production have had an easier time controlling environmental factors including
temperature, humidity and light levels. They also are better able to manage
irrigation, pests and diseases. Van’t Wout said most of the Belgian growers who
have not made the switch to greenhouse production are the ones who have been
doing field production for a long time and are comfortable with that method.

Breeding, pest
management, lighting research

Van’t Wout said that Belgian strawberry breeders are not
hybridizing strawberries specifically for greenhouse production. When a new
variety is introduced by the breeders, he said researchers and growers will try
to produce it in various controlled environment and outdoor growing situations.
Van’t Wout said U.S. greenhouse growers should be able to adapt Belgian-bred strawberries
to their production systems.

The biggest pest problems facing Belgian strawberry
growers are thrips and spider mites. Several trials are being conducted at the
Research Centre with natural enemies, including predatory mites, to determine
their effectiveness on controlling these pests.

Research has also been done with replacing incandescent
light bulbs with LEDs, including Philips GreenPower LED flowering lamp. Van
Delm said that strawberry trials have shown that deep red/white/far red LEDs
are “an effective and energy-efficient replacement” for incandescent bulbs.

research at Research Centre Hoogstraten
in Belgium has included the use of LEDs
to replace
incandescent bulbs for greenhouse production.
For more:
Gerson Van’t Wout, Hort Americas LLC,;
National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative, Research
Centre Hoogstraten (Proefcentrum Hoogstraten),

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