UF Strawberry Breeder: We’re Shifting A Lot of Effort Toward Neopestalotiopsis (VSC News)

UF Strawberry Breeder: We’re Shifting A Lot of Effort Toward Neopestalotiopsis

Yield and quality remain at the forefront of Vance Whitaker’s focus as University of Florida/IFAS strawberry breeder. But not far behind is Neopestalotiopsis Fruit Rot.

“We always have to pay attention to yield and quality, but we’re definitely shifting a lot of effort toward it for sure,” Whitaker said. “It certainly has leapfrogged, probably most traits, at least, just due to the fact that there’s very limited other solutions for it so far, other than varietal resistance.”

It’s the disease that has Florida farmers concerned about its long-term impact. It has progressively worsened since it was first discovered on five farms during the 2018-19 season. It has expanded across the state and even moved northward to Georgia.

While Whitaker has emphasized the importance of this disease into his breeding efforts, a solution is not going to happen overnight.

“There’s different goals that I think you would say are short, medium and long-term. We can slightly increase levels of tolerance just by switching over to different varieties. The Medallion variety, which is a new one coming out, appears to be a little bit more tolerant than our current varieties. If there’s a switch into that variety, that could help growers in the immediate term, as in next year,” Whitaker said. “But as far as improving on that, that’s at least a four or five-year solution in terms of a new variety. In terms of really strong resistance, that’s an even longer type of approach.”

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