Project Objectives

The main outcome of the 2021 strawberry nursery project is the development of cost-effective strawberry propagation protocols and technology, leading to increased strawberry supply chain resilience and efficiency, and particularly to reduced disease incidences in production fields. This includes the development of state-of-the-art solutions for flexible and efficient propagation of clean strawberry material. We will develop and deliver optimized environmental and nutrition protocols for a range of strawberry genotypes; furthermore, we will develop yield prediction protocols and services, pest management recommendations for Precise Indoor Propagation (PIP) systems, and detailed cost-return models for nursery operations and PIP systems.

Overview of project objectives and outcomes. The project is currently funded from September 2021 to September 2025.

Objective 1: Characterization of mother plant physiological responses to the environment.

PIs: Ricardo Hernandez (Team Lead), Jennifer Boldt, Brian Jackson, Chieri Kubota

We investigate optimized environmental conditions for above and below-ground strawberry mother plant propagation in 13 different strawberry cultivars. This will be done in fully controlled environment systems as well as in traditional greenhouse setups. We want to develop a set of protocols to achieve the most cost-effective propagation of strawberry plants for a range of cultivars in both systems.

Structure of Objective 1

Objective 2: Development of environmental protocols for transplant establishment, conditioning and long-term storage.

PIs: Chieri Kubota (lead), Ricardo Hernandez, Edward Durner, Celina Gomez, Mark Hoffmann

We want to know how we can get the best fruit yield from strawberry plants and how can we store the plants most effectively. Therefore we are seeking to improve conditioning protocols for tray and plug plants, as well as storage protocols for transplants.

Structure of Objective 2

Objective 3: Development of a genetic tool to elucidate the runnering and flowering potential of genotypes, based on phenotypic responses to environmental treatments.

PI: Zhongchi Liu (Lead); Advisors: Courtney Weber, Gina Fernandez

We aim to develop genetic examination protocols that can be used to order ANY commercial strawberry plant into a specific propagation and conditioning protocol.

Strawberries are octoploids, which means they have eight copies of each gene. The team is examining each single variant of those genes known to affect runnering or flowering. These genes are: TFL1, FT1, 2, 3, RGA1, SOC1, GA20ox4, CO, LOS, and others. At the same time, we collect phenotypic response data of the genotypes that we use in our mother and daughter plant experiments. We the correlate phenotypic response data with the genotypic data that we collected.

Flow of Objective 3 (provided by Zhongchi Liu)

Objective 4: Determine expected economic costs/returns to industry of adopting developed techniques, and estimate the economic impact of adoption on the US strawberry supply chain.

PIs: Heidi Schweizer (Lead), Daniel Tregeagle, Rachel Goodhue

We investigate the economics of the system and how to integrate it into the strawberry supply chain.

Objective 5: Translation and integration of new propagation systems with industry partners.

PIs: Mark Hoffmann (Lead), Oleg Daugovich, Guilliano Galdi, Gerald Holmes, Gina Fernandez, Courtney Weber, Shinsuke Agehara

Once we have a range of protocols established (Obj. 1 and 2), industry collaborators agreed to adopt protocols to produce plants for field trials. We will investigate the performance of those transplants in field trials across the US eastern and western coasts. At the same time we will validate propagation and conditioning protocols with a variety of industry partners, from field-based nurseries to start-up companies.

Structure of Objective 5

Objective 6: Development of services and products, extension and outreach activities to industry and public stakeholders.

PIs: Peter Nitzsche (Lead), Mark Hoffmann, Lizeth Vigil, Oleg Daugovich, Guillermo Galdi, Shinsuke Agehara, Gerald Holmes, Jayesh Samtani.

Throughout the project we communicate the progress of the work to the researchers, industry and the general public. This website, field days, a news blog, webinars, etc. will be used to educate everyone involved in the strawberry supply chain to ensure adoption of the knowledge and technology developed.

Integration of the project, facilitated by all PIs and the Extension Team

This work is supported by Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), Grant no. 2021-51181-35857, Project accession no. 1027418,  sponsored by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Please use this link for more information.