Strawberry plants are quite complex to be such small plants. The production and yield from plants that size are normally fairly small, but the modern strawberry varieties have been bred extensively to produce huge yields from relatively small plants. Since almost everyone loves strawberries, growing them has become big business. In 2012, over 3 billion pounds of strawberries were produced in the United States, and the value of that haul was about $2,400,000,000 (according to the USDA). That is some serious coinage by any standard. And, that is why there is constantly research and scientific endeavors to increase strawberry production. The more available, the more that will be purchased and eaten (or so the reasoning goes). Literally hundreds of varieties have been developed and released over the years by different research stations in the US and across the globe. The modern strawberry plants that give us the huge and delectable fruits of today weren’t always such prolific producers. In fact, ancient strawberry plants are quite a bit different.
Ancient Strawberry Plants
The ancient strawberry plants that have given rise to our modern strawberry varieties are genetically simpler than the hybrids of today. Strawberry genetics can be convoluted. Differing strawberry crosses have different sets of chromosomes, and ancient strawberry plants are genetically “purer” in the sense that they have fewer genetics that encode for specific traits than do the modern varieties. Consequently, studying the ancient strawberry plants genetic sequencing can yield insights and information that yield an even greater amount of scientific knowledge. That knowledge can, in turn, be used to selectively breed plants to obtain the most desirable traits while culling unfavorable ones.
One of the ancient strawberry plants that is thought to be a significant genetic contributor to today’s stock is Fragaria iinumae. And, this ancient strawberry plants genetic sequencing is now complete, thanks to the scientists at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Thomas Davis collected F. iinumae samples from Japan’s Hokkaido Island in 2004, and he, Dr. Lise Mahoney, and other scientists at UNH have now completed the genetic mapping of the second (of a potential four) diploid ancient strawberry ancestors of today’s varieties (Fragaria vesca has already been completed).
The full research can be found here.
The New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station