Commercialising Australian bred strawberry varieties in Western Australia (BS01006)
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What was it all about?
A protocol was developed to facilitate effective adoption of new varieties from an Australian breeding program into commercial cultivation. A promising, selection first identified in ‘small plot’ trials and later named 'Kiewa' was chosen to test the protocol.
Four lines of investigation were explored in this project. These included:
- Production of sufficient ‘non virus indexed’ runners to enable semi-commercial evaluations of the selection alongside commercial crops.
- Fertiliser and irrigation research to develop a recommended practice, that would optimise marketable yield and fruit quality.
- Consumer studies of the new selection compared to existing cultivars in widespread commercial cultivation, using a sensory laboratory and informal methods of evaluation.
- Exploration of the potential of using fruit brix as a surrogate for flavour in a planned marketing strategy based on consumer recognition.
The methods proved the marketability of the new selection and created a demand among growers for commercial runners when it was released as a named cultivar. Kiewa proved to be well adapted to a range of field chilling conditions, and compared favourably with the industry standard varieties, Camarosa and Gaviota.
Kiewa was highly responsive to nitrogen fertiliser applied after planting, but fruit flavour became increasingly worse with increasing nitrogen rates. A compromise nitrogen rate was identified that would give the grower good yields while not overly disaffecting flavour. A procedure to test plant sap to verify that nitrogen was within guidelines was devised. Standards for quality marketing of the cultivar using fruit brix as a surrogate for flavour were derived based on simple on-farm tests.
The methods tested in this project did create a demand for Kiewa among growers but did not prove sufficient to bring the variety into widespread cultivation in the three year timeframe. This was due to insufficient commercial runners being made available in time. This was an issue that had to be addressed by the Australian industry if it was to derive maximum value from its investment in breeding in Australia.
The project showed that there was great potential to increase per capita consumption of strawberries in Australia if consumer expectations for flavour can be met. This project proved that Kiewa can satisfy these requirements if properly managed and marketed by growers, and still give the grower high yields and a good dollar return.
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This project was funded by Hort Innovation (then Horticulture Australia Limited) with the financial support of the Strawberry Producers Committee Agricultural Producers Commission.
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