April 15, 2010
BELTSVILLE, Md. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) strawberry breeding programthe longest continually running strawberry breeding program in the United Statescelebrates its 100th anniversary this year.
Many of the popular varieties grown for commercial production and by home gardeners were created by ARS scientists with the agency's Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
Several notable varieties have been released by the ARS strawberry breeding program. Blakemore, released in 1931, was the first variety firm enough for shipping, making it possible for consumers all over the country to enjoy fresh strawberries. The release of Steelmaster in 1954 saved the early strawberry industry from the devastating, root-rot disease called red stele.
Throughout its history, the ARS strawberry breeding program solved problems plaguing growers and consumers. According to plant geneticist Kim Lewers, who currently oversees ARS strawberry breeding at the Beltsville lab, the program is now focused on producing nutritious, flavorful, disease-resistant varieties suitable for local year-round production.
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