Water use points way for strawberry variety breeding

Strawberry breeders need to consider the water-use efficiency of new varieties if growers are to meet tougher pressures on water use in the future, the Irrigation Day heard.

"Modern strawberry cultivars are bred without consideration of their water use," according to East Malling Research (EMR) breeder Abi Johnson.

Trials at EMR concluded that varieties Totem, Hapil and Elsanta showed good water-use efficiency - a measure of the plants' water use relative to their gain in biomass - while Elvira, Florence and Symphony showed poorer efficiency, said Johnson.

However, none of them showed as high efficiency as a variety of the beach strawberry, Fragaria chiloensis, a wild parent of the cultivated strawberry, Johnson added. EMR is now using these observable traits to guide future breeding, she said.

Meanwhile, EMR research leader Dr Mark Else revealed the findings of his study projects on regulated deficit irrigation and partial root zone drying in soft fruit and potatoes.

These showed savings in water and fertiliser of between 30 and 45 per cent without reducing yields and even led to tastier produce, he said.

The team would like to move on to field trials this year, Else added.


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