Building a Better Berry
September 20, 1999
Across the United States,
experimental plots are sporting the cream of the wild strawberry crop as six
scientists set about creating tomorrow's berry from the original parents of
today's commercial plants. Their mission: broaden the strawberry's genetic base
and build a bigger, better one in the process.
Today's commercial strawberry, Fragaria x ananassa, comes from a
chance hybridization between a North and a South American species some 250
years ago in a European botanical garden.
Agricultural Research Service
geneticists Stan C. Hokanson in Beltsville, Md., and Chad E. Finn in Corvallis,
Ore., are among the six scientists evaluating 20 to 40 of the finalists from
North and South America.
James F. Hancock
at Michigan State University, East
Lansing, heads the project.
Horticulturists had already done approximately 10 serious evaluations of
wild strawberry species. Hancock's group selected the best and most
representative to screen for 18 characteristics that growers and consumers
prize most. This is the final cut.
Early results are promising. Last April in Hokanson's Beltsville plots, most
of the species collection was in flower while the cultivars were just waking
up. And last fall, one species from Alabama and another from Mississippi were
disease-free while all the cultivars were covered with leaf spot, scorch and
powdery mildew. Some of the elite species currently under evaluation come from
Clonal Germplasm Repository at Corvallis. Others were recently collected in
native habitats--from Chile to the Rockies to Ontario, Canada.
Most processing strawberries hail from the Pacific Northwest. So Corvallis'
Finn will watch for rich color, high acidity or high sugars to fulfill
processors' wish list. He expects to find a strong, vigorous root system to
cope with methyl bromide loss. Read more about the project in the September
issue of Agricultural
Research magazine on the web at:
Scientific contact: Stan C. Hokanson,
Fruit Laboratory, ARS
Beltsville Agricultural Research
Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504-6768, fax (301) 504-5062,