The Genetic Quest to Make Strawberries Taste Great Again

[In an article in Wired Online, plant breeder and Professor Steve Knapp at UC Davis addresses the quest to make strawberries more flavorful, in conjunction with UC Cooperative Extension and the University of Florida.]

The Genetic Quest to Make Strawberries Taste Great Again

Article by Nick Stockton
condensed from Wired Online
June 17, 2015

Supermarket strawberries are bred for size, color, shelf-life, and disease-resistance. On the agronomical trip to market, strawberries have lost some of their flavor. But breeders wants to bring glory back to the strawberry, amping up classical breeding techniques with modern genetics.

“When you talk about something like flavor, there are so many components: the texture, the sugar content, the types of sugars, the aromatics,” says Steve Knapp, the new director of UC Davis’ Strawberry Breeding Program. And those sugars, acids, and fragrant compounds come from a sprawling array of genes that interact, modify, and depend on each other to create strawberry-ness.

“In every aspect of plant breeding there are traits that are highly heritable, which you have a higher probability of finding the genes for,” says Knapp. By cross-referencing the plant’s physical appearances and genomes, the researcher can start building a database of which gene codes for which trait.

“Flavor is paramount. If strawberries don’t deliver, people can eat bananas, or blackberries instead,” says Mark Bolda, a strawberry expert with the UC Davis program.

Over 60 percent of all the strawberries consumed in the U.S. come from breeds developed at UC Davis.

[Read the full article, by Nick Stockton, in Wired Online,]

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