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During the recent Ontario Berry Growers Association annual meeting, the university's Dr. Adam Dale announced 'Summer Ruby,' a firm, large-fruited, early- mid-season variety. It was tested as 2V55. Two previously released Guelph cultivars have been renamed. V151, released in 2007, will now be known as 'Summer Dawn', which is firm, bright-red, and conical in shape, with high yields. R14, released in 2009, will now be known as ‘Summer Rose.’ This variety is actually the latest of the three, similar in season to Serenity. Although slightly smaller but better quality compared to Serenity, Summer Rose is a large, red berry with good but moderate yields. The Ontario Berry Growers Association holds the rights to these varieties and they are all available from Strawberry Tyme Farms... You might recall a feature story in our spring issue about involvement by Oregon State University scientists in the genome sequencing of the wild strawberry Fragraria vesca. The project is seen as laying the groundwork for improvements in commercial varieties, from pest resistance to flavour and appearance. Not surprisingly, word of the sequencing raised some concerns. “There’s been a lot of misunderstanding in the (agriculture) industry that genome sequencing means strawberries are genetically modified, but that’s not the case at all,” says Kevin Folta, co-author of a paper on the subject, which appeared in Nature Genetics. The genome mapping will speed, not replace, conventional breeding programs, the researchers insist. “There may be just a handful of genes that make strawberries what they are,” said Folta, an associate professor in horticultural sciences at the University of Florida. “That’s helpful. Once you know how their parts differ, it allows you to focus efforts to control the traits important to consumers. So maybe even in a couple years you’ll see results as far as improved varieties.” Breeders have always tried to match desirable traits like colour, sweetness, size and disease resistance. But having the sequence


T


prunings


he University of Guelph has released a new June- bearing strawberry cultivar.


on the native berry will save time, said U.S. Department of Agriculture molecular biologist Janet Slovin. “Instead of having to plant out thousands of seeds and look for the ones we want, we can do this at a molecular level when they’re little seedlings,” said Slovin, another co-author. “You’re saving yourself an entire season. You’d save a lot of acreage, and only plant out the seeds that have the genes you’re interested in...”


Blueberry production is on the


rise in California, where growers continue to see the whole bush berry category as a growth opportunity. A blip on the screen a decade or so ago, blueberries hit the three-million flat mark in 2010, said Alex Ott, executive director of the California Blueberry Commission. Michigan, the top U.S. producer, was at 3.9 million. The same year, California produced 138 million flats of strawberries, 22.4 million of raspberries and 2.8 million of blackberries. “The bush berry category is really on the rise,” said Cindy Jewell, director of marketing at Watsonville-based California Giant Berry Farms. “We really got into it a few years ago, but with the way blueberry plants produce, the first couple years are low-volume. Strawberries are consistent; volumes will be similar to last year. Blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are still climbing. You’re seeing more and more each year because


consumption is increasing.” As April began, California Giant was shifting blueberry and blackberry production from South America to the Golden State. Growth in South American


volume for both blues and blacks was in the 15-20 percent range, Jewell said, and similar gains are possible in California. The company also grows in Oregon...


Still with blueberries, and back on the research front, the first analysis of the healthful antioxidant content of blues that grow wild in Mexico, Central and South America concludes that some of these fruits have even more healthful antioxidants than the renowned "super fruits" sold throughout North America. These extreme super fruits could provide even more protection against heart disease, cancer and other conditions, suggests a report appearing in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Edward Kennelly and colleagues note that although there are more than 600 species of blueberries and blueberry-like fruits growing in Mexico, Central and South America (the so-called “neotropics”), very little research has been done on them. Canadian and U.S.-grown blueberries are already famous for their antioxidants, which help the body get rid of harmful free radicals. So, the researchers decided to find out how neotropical blueberries stacked up against a grocery-store variety. They found that two types of neotropical blueberries were extreme super fruits — having significantly more antioxidants than a type of blueberry commonly sold in our supermarkets. The researchers say these neotropical blueberries "have the potential to be even more highly promising edible fruits..."


22 British Columbia Berry Grower • Summer 2011


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