Despite it being one of the most popular fruits among children (today, more than half of 7- to 9-year-olds picked it as their favorite fruit, according to the University of Illinois Extension), I was that kid who didn’t like strawberries. For some reason, my taste buds were turned off by anything with “berry” after it. Nowadays, I don’t come across many strawberries that I don’t like, and am likely within the range of an average consumer who eats an average of 3.4 pounds of the tasty gems a year (University of Illinois Extension).

While nearly all of the strawberries — just over 90 percent, according to the National Agricultural Statistic Service — produced in the U.S. are grown in the fields of California or Florida, there are growers and researchers who are interested in growing strawberries in controlled environments. As with other crops, growers may simply want to sell fresh and locally grown fruit during times of year they would not grow outdoors.

For growers who are keen on pursuing the crop, we bring you this month’s cover story. We talked to Dr. Chieri Kubota, a researcher at the University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture Center, who is looking at the best way to grow strawberries in a hydroponic system that could give field-grown strawberries a run for their money. However, switching from tomatoes or cucumbers to strawberries isn’t the easiest task, Kubota found. “I quickly realized that it’s a very complex physiology [that] the strawberry has, and that it’s not an easy crop to learn,” Kubota says. She estimates that growers will continue to tweak their production methods through about six growing seasons, double what would be expected with a new tomato, lettuce or cucumber crop. Check it out here.

Also in this issue, entomologist Raymond Cloyd presents the findings of a research project that looked at the use of biological controls in hoophouse-grown tomatoes for the prevention of twospotted spider mites. Read it here.

And if you’re thinking about growing or expanding your herbs production, don’t miss Leslie Halleck’s article. She looks at marketing, packaging, trends and more, including why it’s important to be transparent about your production methods and which herbs are becoming more popular among consumers. | (216) 393-0290

Twitter: @Karen_GIE