Strawberries; Reproduction and Runners

Plants are not so different from us, they require water, nutrients, and sunlight to stay productive and to hopefully reproduce once reaching maturity. There are thousands of different species of plants across the globe which have evolved and flourished under the harshest environmental conditions. From ferns that reproduce by releasing spores from the underside of their leaves or to evergreens which reproduce by producing cones and needles. Every single plant on this planet has developed unique methods of passing on their genetics to the next generation. 

Strawberries have developed two methods of reproduction and a third one which can be achieved with help from us. 

This is a mature strawberry plant showcasing two methods of reproductive behaviour

Sexual Reproduction

The first method of reproduction, which we are most likely familiar with, is through sexual reproduction. When a plant reaches maturity and starts to produce flowers, these flowers are meant to incentivize pollinators to harvest pollen. It requires a lot of energy and resources for a plant to produce pollen but guarantees that the next generation of seed will be of mixed genetics from the male and female. The male portion of the flower is called the “stamen” which produces pollen for pollinators to harvest. The female portion of the flower is called the “pistil” and consists of an ovary located at the center of the flower. Strawberries have both male and female parts that are capable of self-pollination with the help of wind or rain. In a controlled environment setting, it helps to use bumblebees for pollination and guarantees that complete pollination will occur. 

Asexual Reproduction

The second method of reproduction, which is the least energy consuming method for the plant is called asexual reproduction. In this type of reproduction, there are no male or female parts associated with producing the next generation. There will not be any type of fruit or seed produced during this method of reproduction either. Some plants will produce offshoots from the original mother plant and produce clones of the same genetic material from the parent. 

Strawberries are one of the many plant species which produce these offshoots and are referred to as “runners”. Runners will typically stretch out from the original mother plant and once they contact soil, they begin to form new roots. It is possible to have a field of strawberries that are all connected to one original mother plant!

Strawberries are one of the many plant species which produce these offshoots and are referred to as “runners”. Runners will typically stretch out from the original mother plant and once they contact soil, they begin to form new roots. It is possible to have a field of strawberries that are all connected to one original mother plant!

This is a fully ripened ovary with seeds (sexual reproduction) next to a strawberry runner (asexual reproduction) looking to contact soil. 

Most strawberry growers prefer harvesting runners for their farms as they are guaranteed to get the same quality of genetics from the mother plant. This will ensure that every berry harvested will taste the same. A popular technique is to cut the strawberry runners and stick them under mist until they have properly rooted out.

Here a recently snipped runner tip is about to be placed on a misting bench with GrowFoam™ used as the growing medium. 

Strawberry runners will begin showing signs of root development between 10 – 14 days. 

Once roots have developed, fertilizer can be supplemented into the mist irrigation to keep the plugs growing. 

For the first initial 10 – 14 days, the leaves should remain somewhat “perky”, which indicates that the relative humidity is high enough for them to focus their energy on root production.

The image to the right is a runner ready to be placed under mist for the next 10 – 14 days until roots have established.

The third method of reproduction requires splitting the crowns of the strawberry plants into smaller individual plants. This form of reproduction is considered asexual reproduction and is a great way to downsize on overgrown mother plants. A fully matured strawberry plant can have anywhere between 4 – 6 crowns that can be split (if the roots remain intact).

These experiences are part of our ongoing research of hydroponic strawberry trails at the ZipGrow research and development greenhouse facility. 

Our goal is to provide our knowledge to indoor farmers so they can maximize production using ZipGrow Towers while reducing operating costs.

In a traditional horizontal gutter system 10 – 12 strawberry plants per m2 is typical.

With ZipGrow hydroponic Towers, we are aiming for 60 plants/m2. By growing in a truly vertically system we can grow more within a square metre; in a 2 metre square space, we have 6 horizontal Towers with 10 plants per Tower.

As our trials continue will will update you on the progress and final harvest. Have you subscribed to our newsletter to stay informed?

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