Research campus receives national grants for strawberry breeding
KANNAPOLIS — The N.C. Research Campus has received two grants from the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative for its strawberry breeding program.
Dr. Jeremy Pattison, strawberry breeder and geneticist with the N.C. State University Plants for Human Health Institute at the research campus, recently was awarded a $158,391 grant. He is a co-investigator on a second grant in the amount of $127,168, led by Dr. Brian Whipker, also with N.C. State.
The grants will support work that helps strawberry growers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to maximize yields and profitability.
Pattison recently completed a comprehensive research program that has developed a fall growing degree day model. He has extensively tested the new production practices at N.C. State University and N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services research stations across the state.
“They show great potential to increase marketable yield, season length and stability,” Pattison said. “This grant will help us more effectively provide training and technology transfer to growers.”
In addition to the latest research, new technologies and tools will be shared with growers. Pattison cited a cost-effective, energy-efficient cooling system that was recently developed for use by small to medium-sized growers to increase fruit quality and reduce post-harvest product loss.
Another aspect of the project will focus on educating growers about the updated comprehensive strawberry plasticulture farm budget designed to help growers better manage financial resources.
“Small growers, in particular, need inexpensive and energy-efficient cooling systems while all growers are looking to improve fruit quality management,” Pattison said. “In addition, we want to help growers mitigate financial risks by demonstrating the economic impacts of production improvements.”
Working with Pattison on this National Strawberry Initiative Grant are Dr. Penelope Perkins-Veazie, postharvest physiologist; Jonathan Baros, farm management Extension associate; and Leah Chester-Davis, communications and outreach coordinator. All are with the Plants for Human Health Institute. Both Pattison and Perkins-Veazie are also members of the Department of Horticultural Science.
The project will also include Cooperative Extension faculty from North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech and a representative from Lassen Canyon Nursery, one of the premier strawberry nurseries in the world.
The other project with Dr. Whipker is a strawberry diagnostics tool that strawberry growers can access with their computer, tablet or smart phone. It will help ensure that growers and others have real-time access to the broad spectrum of N.C. State research and knowledge relevant to all aspects of strawberry production.
These projects are funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and administered by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability (CARS). According to CARS, funded projects will result in more sustainable strawberries for U.S. consumers. The grant awards are part of a $3 million donation made by the Walmart Foundation.