Two new strawberry varieties have been developed at the Queensland's Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Applethorpe Research Facility.
Minister for Agricultural Industry Development Mark Furner says the Australian Strawberry Breeding Program was targeting our three major strawberry production regions – temperate, subtropical and Mediterranean – to help farmers produce more attractive, flavoursome and robust fruit.
“Breeding trials at Applethorpe during 2018 have developed two new varieties, Summer Song and Scarlet-silk, which are being trialled this season by strawberry producers in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia,” Mr Furner said. “In addition, our strawberry breeding team has just commenced a new five-year $8.6million dollar National Strawberry Varietal Development Program, co-funded by Hort Innovation, to deliver new and improved varieties to all production regions in Queensland. Other work at Applethorpe has focused on the improved management of charcoal rot in strawberries, and the development of a new variety of table grapes.”
Photo: Queensland strawberries, courtesy DAF Media Twitter
The Applethorpe Research Facility is also the hub of research activity for a $16.6 million five-year project to improve the resilience of crops against viral and bacterial diseases. Mr Furner says the facility was also renowned for the development of the disease-resistant Kalei apple.
“The Kalei is currently being commercialised by Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL), the same company looking after Pink Lady on a global scale,” he said. “We are still evaluating other promising disease resistant lines from this initial breeding program which commenced 25 years ago. The department is also working on high density growing systems including trellises, researching rootstocks, plant densities, row spacing and crop load management to maximise yields. The trials show the potential of producing 100t/ha where industry common practice has only resulted in half that amount.”
Meanwhile, South Australia’s strawberry season was launched with an auction to sell the first box of the state’s strawberries at the Adelaide Central Market, which went for $17,500 - with proceeds going to the Variety SA charity. Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone encouraged South Australian's to support growers by purchasing local strawberries.
"With local strawberries now coming into season the greatest support South Australians can give our strawberry industry is to buy local," he said. "South Australians have a great reputation for backing our producers in times of need. I'm proud of the way industry and government have come together to ensure our producers continue to thrive."
South Australian Produce Market CEO Angelo Demasi says traditionally the consumer support for the strawberry industry has been overwhelming and hopes that the South Australian season will receive the same support.
"In 2016–17 South Australia produced around 6,000 tonnes of strawberries with a farm gate value of around $42 million, so it's really important that we continue to support the industry," said Mr Demasi. "Consumers can be assured that we are doing everything we can as an industry to provide them with fresh, local produce that has been picked and packed by SA families."