Feb 9, 2015
UC Davis, California Strawberry Commission settle lawsuit

The University of California, Davis, and the California Strawberry Commission today settled their legal differences regarding the public strawberry breeding program at UC Davis, according to a UC Davis press release.

As part of this renewed commitment to a public breeding program that creates new varieties for California’s strawberry farmers, UC Davis announced the hiring of a new breeder for its strawberry breeding program.

Steven J. Knapp, a plant scientist with teaching and research experience at two other U.S. land-grant universities as well as international plant genomics experience in the commercial sector, has accepted the university’s offer to lead the program.

“We are thrilled to have Steve join us as we design a new strawberry breeding program for the 21st century,” said Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, which is home to the strawberry breeding program.

“He brings with him expertise in plant genomics and genetics, as well as great breadth of experience in directing a variety of crop-breeding teams in the United States and around the world,” Dillard said.

Lawsuit settlement

Highlights of the legal settlement include further partnership opportunities for the UC Davis Strawberry Breeding Program and the California Strawberry Commission.

Over the next five years, UC Davis will release new strawberry varieties that will be available to all farmers, and the California Strawberry Commission will assist UC Davis in its identification of new commercial varieties. As part of the settlement, a new strawberry advisory committee will be formed, comprising university representatives, strawberry farmers and commission representatives.

Since 1956, California’s strawberry farmers have supported the UC Davis Strawberry Breeding Program through the California Strawberry Commission (formerly the California Strawberry Advisory Board). Annual contributions and research grants through the commission have contributed millions of dollars to support the development of strawberry varieties uniquely adapted to California’s exceptional growing environment.

The settlement brings to a close legal disagreements dating back to October 2013, when the commission filed a lawsuit against the university related to the strawberry breeding program’s research agreement with the commission. Both that lawsuit and the university’s counter suit, filed in October 2014, are ended by this week’s settlement.

“The hiring of the new plant breeder and the commitment to continue the public program were critical to resolving the dispute,” said Rick Tomlinson president of the California Strawberry Commission. “Combined with the leadership of Dean Helene Dillard, the strawberry breeding program is positioned to continue releasing exceptional new plant varieties.”

Karen Ross, secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture, also voiced confidence that the public breeding program will move forward to identify the best plant varieties for California strawberry farmers

“I am very pleased to see UC Davis and the California Strawberry Commission move into a new era of collaboration,” Ross said. “With a talented new plant breeder to lead the program, the commitment of the chancellor and the dean, and an industry advisory committee to provide input on the program’s vision, we have all the ingredients for a partnership that will benefit the California strawberry industry and the university for years to come.”

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