Strawberry breeding a juicy success

Sweet new varieties on the menu from national strawberry breeding program

Horticulture
POSSIBLE: What a white strawberry might look like. One is being bred through the Australian Strawberry Breeding Program. Note: Image has been digitally altered.

POSSIBLE: What a white strawberry might look like. One is being bred through the Australian Strawberry Breeding Program. Note: Image has been digitally altered.

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Aussie strawberry breeders are coming up with some new takes on the delicious berry.

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A WHITE strawberry that tastes a bit like a pineapple is just one of the varieties in the pipeline of a national strawberry breeding program.

Every strawberry season, researchers from the Australian Strawberry Breeding Program trial, taste and assess thousands of new varieties of strawberry developed through natural breeding to identify the best tasting and yielding fruit for Australia.

The current program began in 2018 and continues the work of previous research which saw the commercialisation of 12 new varieties in recent years.

The Hort Innovation-funded project is done in partnership with the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries and supports the Australian strawberry industry by giving access to improved, locally-adapted superior varieties.

Strawberry breeder Dr Jodi Neal said the team working on the project has started screening strawberries for the presence of aromatic compounds that contribute to that sweet peach flavour in strawberries and the presence of genes that contribute to this.

"We are also producing white and pale strawberries - like strawberries and cream. We will soon be looking for a commercialisation partner for these varieties," Dr Neal said.

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"The varieties are pure white on the inside and taste a bit like pineapples.

"We are also working on a new darker variety that's the colour of red wine."

Hort Innovation is undertaking an Expression of Interest process to identify partners to commercialise two new temperate strawberry varieties.

More information can be found on the Hort Innovation website: https://www.horticulture.com.au/delivery-partners/partnership-opportunities/commercial-licence-for-new-temperate-strawberry-varieties/

Hort Innovation research and development manager, Dr Vino Rajandran, said program strives to develop elite varieties for both Australian consumers and growers by combining the best of both natural breeding techniques and cutting-edge science to improve fruit quality and flavour.

"The program, in collaboration with Australian strawberry growers, breeds for the best tasting and yielding varieties that are suitable for sub-tropical, temperate and mediterranean climates, covering most of the strawberry production area of Australia," Dr Rajandran said.

"Last year more than 80 per cent of strawberry plants grown commercially in Queensland were varieties developed by the program, so if you bought a punnet of Australian-grown strawberries from the supermarket tomorrow, you are buying an Australian product that has been perfected for both our climate and taste-buds."

Queensland agriculture minister, Mark Furner, said the breeding program continues the Queensland Government's support for strawberry growers.

"Queensland is Australia's largest strawberry producer with an average industry value of $171 million over the past five years and the breeding program can be credited with a large part of this success," Mr Furner said.

"The program's strawberry varieties had an estimated national farm gate value of $201 million in 2018-19 and now make up 80 per cent of strawberries planted in Queensland, supporting jobs and enhancing Queensland's well-earned reputation for producing the world's finest produce."

Healthy treats

WITH the strawberry season rolling on, Hort Innovation accredited dietitian, Jemma O'Hanlon, has reminded consumers that strawberries are nutritional powerhouses.

"They contain a whopping 170pc of our daily intake of vitamin C, which supports our immunity as well as enriching our skin from within," Ms O'Hanlon said.

"Strawberries also contain folate, potassium and powerful antioxidants to fight off free radical damage.

"They are very low in kilojoules, so they make the perfect snack for those managing their weight and they are also perfect straight from the punnet, just as nature intended, and the gut-loving fibre will keep you fuller for longer."

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The story Strawberry breeding a juicy success first appeared on Good Fruit & Vegetables.

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