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Strawberry genetics discovery could improve yields


American scientists say they have identified the key gene in strawberry plants which regulates berry and plant growth, potentially opening up new varieties.

Julie Caruana of the University of Maryland, who worked under the direction of Zhongchi Liu, affiliate professor with the department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, said that the new discovery increased knowledge about how strawberry plants produce runners. “We know at least one gene that is definitely involved, and going forward, we can determine what other genes are involved and how they interact,” she said.

“Most strawberry plants in use today are June bearers,” said Professor Liu. “Since strawberry plants are only kept for two years due to significant production drop off with age, farmers only get two harvests from a typical June bearer. Ever-bearers can produce multiple harvests each year, increasing overall strawberry yield. But they are relatively unpopular at the moment for farmers and at nurseries because they are poor runner makers. It is difficult to propagate ever-bearers.

“If we can find a way to induce runner production in ever-bearers, the market for these strawberry plants could open up, increasing strawberry yield and having major impacts on production.”

“When you are trying to fruit strawberry plants, turning off runner production would really help growers,” added Mike Newell, Senior Faculty Specialist and Horticultural Crops Program Manager at Wye Research and Education. “Depending on the production system used, runner production may or may not be desirable, and they may have to be manually removed. Nurseries on the other hand would love runners so they can sell more tips to growers. Controlling this would certainly help growers and nurseries from different sides.”


Photo Caption: The ability to switch between runner and flower production could improve strawberry propagation.

Photo Credit: Pixabay