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ARS Home » Northeast Area » Beltsville, Maryland (BARC) » Beltsville Agricultural Research Center » Genetic Improvement for Fruits & Vegetables Laboratory » Research » Research Project #444039

Research Project: Strawberry Crop Improvement through Breeding, Genetics, Genomics, and Molecular Biology

Location: Genetic Improvement for Fruits & Vegetables Laboratory

Project Number: 8042-21220-260-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Mar 7, 2023
End Date: Mar 6, 2028

Objective 1: Breed improved strawberry plants that perform well for commercial growers, with emphasis on high yield, tolerance to abiotic stress, resistance to diseases, and fruit with excellent fruit quality and long shelf life. Objective 2. Characterize important strawberry traits, their inheritance and genetic control, developmental and biochemical pathways, and metabolic processes, including the regulation of plant architecture, and fruit and flower development.

Standard plant breeding methods will be used to generate superior strawberry cultivars for traditional production practices and fruiting for the traditional short spring season. Novel evaluation practices for fruit quality and flavor will be developed and incorporated into the annual breeding cycle. A seedling screen for resistance to anthracnose crown rot, an emerging disease of worldwide importance, will be used to identify resistant strawberry plants and increase the breeding population’s average resistance to the disease. New cultivars resulting from selection based on increased disease resistance, fruit quality, yield, and shelf life will be released. To help satisfy demand for year-round availability, similar methods will be used to generate improved strawberry plants that fruit for an extended season from April through December. Because the longer-fruiting plants will face weather and pest challenges that are not problems during the traditional fruiting season, new comparison methods will be developed to facilitate identification of plants that produce fruit within the traditional season, and produce equally well outside the traditional strawberry season. Physiological, genomic, and transcriptomic analyses of novel mutant diploid strawberry lines will lead to identifying genes involved in growth and development required to meet predicted challenges, such as the trend toward completely contained growing environments for urban and off-season production. These insights into basic strawberry biology also will improve the tools breeders have to develop the necessary new cultivars. The results will help strawberry nurseries provide high-quality cultivars to growers, helping them produce strawberries more sustainably to satisfy increasing consumer demand for fresh, flavorful fruit year-round.