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Strawberry Fields Forever

According to USDA, the United States is the world’s largest producer of strawberries. From farms to fields, growers are discovering ways to perfect the quality and taste of the flavorful fruit. "The Favored Strawberry" is a new documentary that highlights the immigrants, scientists, and extension specialists whose work affects all aspects of strawberry production. The film, overseen by the University of Arkansas, is part of the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative. The documentary highlights USDA and NIFA investments in strawberry breeding and research. The USDA recently hosted a screening with special guests Curt Rom of the University of Arkansas, Ben Butler of Butler’s Orchard in Germantown, Maryland, and John Lea-Cox of the University of Maryland. Lea-Cox appears in the film and discusses his wireless irrigation system, funded by NIFA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI).

The film notes that strawberries are often cultivated with methyl bromide, a pesticide that has been used for over 50 years for a range of pest management purposes from farming to storage, to shipment and quarantine. NIFA’s Methyl Bromide Transition (MBT) supports research on new, environmentally friendly pesticides and innovative tools and strategies to replace the older methyl bromide treatment option.

The film also mentions the RosBreed project, managed by Michigan State University and involving researchers and institutions from all over the U.S. Funded through NIFA Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI), RosBreed develops genomic tools to help breeders identify genes for traits such as drought tolerance and disease resistance. These tools can shorten the time required to develop new cultivars by years and save hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Listen to USDA's Radio interview with Curt Rom of the University of Arkansas.

Want to read about more impacts like this? Check out Fresh from the Field, a weekly bulletin showcasing transformative impacts made by grantees funded by NIFA.

Farm Bill Priority Areas
Plant health, production, and products;
Agriculture systems and technology;
Food Safety, Nutrition, and Health
U.S. States and Territories
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