University of Maryland, U.S.

Researchers find gene that may increase strawberry production

Strawberries are a $3 billion per year agricultural industry in the United States alone. However, there is a definite potential to enhance this industry further by understanding the mechanisms behind the breeding and production of strawberry plants.

Researcher Julie Caruana has come significantly closer to this level of understanding by finding the gene that hones the plant’s ability to produce runners (a horizontal stem, ideal for producing young strawberry plants for retail).

There are many factors that affect flowering and runnering behaviour. Controlling these traits and understanding the process, genetically and environmentally, is very important to the industry. When you are trying to fruit strawberry plants, turning off runner production would really be useful. quoted Dr. Zhongchi Liu, affiliate professor with the department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture and professor in the department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics: “Most strawberry plants in use today are known as June bearers; plants that only produce berries once per year. 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 on the other hand 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. 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."

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