Sep 7, 2017
California universities receive millions for strawberry research

USDA announced in late August its decision to award $8.8 million in grants to two teams of scientists, led by California universities, who are researching ways to manage and prevent soil disease on strawberry farms.

One group, led by UC Davis, received $4.5 million in support of its research identifying strawberry plants that are resistant to certain diseases. The team consists of researchers from various universities, including the University of Florida and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

As reported by the Sun, based in Santa Maria, California, the funding will be used to new ways to breed larger and better tasting crops, or identify plants with a natural resistance to pathogens that commonly cause rampant disease and death among fruits and veggies.

According to the Sun:

“Gerald Holmes, director of Cal Poly’s Strawberry Center, said he and a team of 13 other co-project directors hope to accelerate the development of disease-resistant strawberries by identifying more genetic markers that make some plants resistant. Identifying these genes would allow plant breeders to develop new strains of berries on a larger scale. 

Holmes said this is one of the first major projects for Cal Poly’s Strawberry Center, which was established in 2014. 

“I think we’re reaching a place now where we’ve become a part of the industry in an integral way,” Holmes said. “This is just one more thing that demonstrates our ability to get a lot of grants.”

California is the largest producer of strawberries in the U.S., according to a 2017 California Strawberry Acreage Survey, and the state is expected to produce 79 percent of the nation’s strawberries this year. In Santa Barbara County, strawberries provided a gross value of more than $400 million in 2016, according to the county’s most recent Agricultural Production Report, making strawberry farming the county’s top grossing commodity. 

There are 101 strawberry growers in the Santa Maria area alone, according to Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Rudy Martel, and a California Strawberry Commission Volume Pink Sheet shows that almost 48 million 9-pound crates of strawberries were shipped out of Santa Maria by Aug. 19 of this year. 

But California’s massive strawberry industry is being threatened by disease.” 

For more on the story, visit here.


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