The University of Florida and North Carolina A&T Universities have received a $200,000 from the Wal-Mart Foundation to continue their research into organic strawberry production.

The grant helps fund continuation of exploratory work started in 2013-14, according to a news release.

Growers are three north-central Florida farms are assessing two cover crops and three commercial strawberry varieties that performed well in initial trials.

During the second phase, researchers will evaluate on-station and on-farm research for seasonal variability in market yield, nutrient-use efficiency, consumer acceptance, and response to post-harvest handling and storage.

Last year, both open-field and high-tunnel systems were tested in North Carolina and Florida.

Although high tunnels enhanced plant growth, fruit yield and frost protection, growers didn't view it as that important.

UF researchers then focused on more in-depth studies of selected cultivars in open-field systems in Florida.

High-tunnel evaluation will continue at North Carolina A&T, where 10 cultivars will be trialed. In addition, four cultivars have been planted in a high tunnel as well as in the open field at a Hmong demonstration site in Lincolnton, N.C.

Pest management continues to be a focus, with twospotted spider mites and spotted wing drosophila being major targets.

Since farmers markets and community supported agriculture are important marketing channels for small-scale strawberry growers, the researchers plan to conduct a national online consumer survey.

It will focus on consumers' preference of strawberry quality attributes and their willingness to pay for them.