First Organic Strawberry Varieties to be Developed

First Organic Strawberry Varieties to be Developed

Organic strawberry seedlings are pictured at the Macfarlane Research Greenhouses. (Photo: University of New Hampshire)

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station in Durham, NH, are looking into the development of the first strawberry varieties specifically created for organic production.

This project is funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture’s Organic Agriculture Research and Extension Initiative (OREI).

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“We want to provide strawberry growers with regionally adapted, seed-propagated strawberry varieties that are suitable for organic agriculture and are pleasing to consumers. Organically certifiable, seed-propagated varieties provide an attractive and environmentally friendly alternative to the vegetatively propagated varieties currently relied upon by the strawberry industry,” Lise Mahoney, experiment station researcher who is leading the three-year project, said.

The project is expected to produce both day-neutral and short-day flowering varieties for organic production that can be propagated by seeds.

Mahoney and her collaborators, including Tom Davis, professor of genetics, molecular and evolutionary systems biology, and sustainable agriculture and food systems, and Becky Sideman, professor of plant biology and Extension professor and specialist in sustainable horticulture production, will use an advanced breeding method called marker-assisted breeding. Marker-assisted breeding allows scientists to conduct traditional cross-hybridization and trait-based selection using genetic testing. Mahoney and Davis will conduct the genetic testing using the IStraw90 SNP Array, which they helped develop.

“This project will contribute to advances in strawberry breeding for organic agriculture and will advance knowledge of the genetic basis for trait variation, inbreeding depression, and hybrid vigor in strawberry,” Mahoney said.