By now most of us should be well into our early fertility regime on plasticulture berries. Beginning with about a 1/2 pound per acre per day (3.5 lbs. of N per week) to get the crop started. As we move further into March we should gradually increase this rate to around 1 pound per acre per day (7 lbs. of N per week). You will want to fertilize according to your irrigation needs and soil type. On sandy soils it is a good idea to split fertilizer applications with each scheduled irrigation to avoid leaching. On heavier soils we may be able to fertilize fewer times per week. Due to soil moisture, rainfall and soil type no two fields will be treated the same. Contact your County Agent if you want some help with these decisions
With recent rains and green fruit to protect we should be on the lookout for diseases like botrytis (grey mold). In the absence this disease Captan is a good choice for leaf spot or leaf blight control. Two-spotted spider mites have also been found at treatable levels in growers fields. This is especially true if row covers were used at any time this winter. Thresholds for spider mites at this time are about 5 mites per leaflet. As plants begin to grow more rapidly they can handle more mites but it is better to hit them early rather than too late. I would also look for eggs as an indicator that populations are on the rise. Routinely spraying insecticides without scouting for actual pests can also increase your chances of a mite problem as the season progresses.
It looks like weather patterns have set us up for another early season but we are not out of the woods with a few more cold snaps in the near future. You may not have fancy temperature monitors in your field but there are a few things to consider when looking at frost protection. air temperatures measured at chest height can be a few degrees warmer than at the strawberry canopy. Exposed tight buds can tolerate between 22-27 F, open flowers will only tolerate 30 F and small green fruit can handle 28 F. At this time the middle Georgia area looks to be safe but I am sure as we head north row covers will need to be applied prior to a few of the colder mornings.
As we move through March it will be important for growers to watch local forecasts so they can prepare to protect the crop that has developed this February.