Misshapen Strawberries in Spring? It’s Probably Poor Pollination.

— Written By and last updated by Carol Hicks

A recent post from Barclay Poling at the NC State Strawberry Growers Information Portal highlighted several grower questions about misshaped strawberries. I’ve addressed this question in the past, but it bears repeating:

In the spring and early summer, misshaped strawberries are almost always due to poor pollination. You can distinguish poor pollination from other types of damage because fruit will have variable seed size. Large seeds received pollination, while small seeds did not. There’s a striking example here from Barclay’s post.

Poor pollination is common when plants have been under row covers during bloom and when the bloom period has been rainy and/or cold.

Growers are often concerned that misshaped fruit may be due to thrips or lygus bug feeding. Thrips feed DOES NOT cause misshapen berries; it may cause bronzing near the stem-end of fruit, as seen in this UC IPM image. Lygus bugs CAN cause misshaped fruit, but seeds on fruit affected by lygus will be similar in size. Also, and extremely important, thrips and lygus are rarely active in potentially damaging densities in strawberries until late in the growing season. Meaning that if misshapen fruit are observed in spring and early summer, they are almost always due to poor pollination, not insect damage!