What are the benefits of using silicon as a nutrient for strawberry growth?
Wileman, H J
Silicon is considered to be a non-essential element in strawberry production, previous work at the University of Hertfordshire has shown that the use of silicon in fertigation systems has enhanced the constitutive defence pathway of the strawberry crop and has additional benefits such as increased chlorophyll content of leaves, increased Brix values of fruit and increased pollen viability. In a hydroponic experiment in 2018, plants received weekly treatments of a silicon solution (0.017%) were compared to plants with no exposure to silicon. Treated plants had significantly more leaves, runners and fruits and a significant increase in chlorophyll content of the leaves (p<0.05). Also, fruits obtained from the treated plants, had significantly higher Brix levels, a greater mass and size than those from the untreated plants. No deficiency symptoms were observed in the untreated plants. A second hydroponic experiment began in January 2019 to investigate whether silicon can ever be toxic to strawberry plants. Weekly applications of potassium silicate were compared to the use of the silicon nutrient without potassium, at different concentrations; results are expected by June 2019. From the results of the first hydroponic experiment, it can be seen that strawberry plants are not naturally deficient in silicon, however, it is a limiting factor in their growth and plants can benefit from regular treatments of silicon.