A five-year joint research project is underway to advance strawberry genetics to improve the flavour and quality in line with consumer preferences. The aim is to develop a premium range of strawberries that will target high-income overseas markets.
Delivered through Hort Innovation, the project is being led by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Queensland (DAFQ) and supported by Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI).
QAAFFI Sensory Scientist Associate Professor Dr Heather Smyth said the research will expand the range of strawberries on offer to consumers, mimicking the experience offered by fruit such as apples.
“There are many different apple varieties which offer subtly different tastes, textures and end-uses- Granny Smith, Red Delicious for example,” she said. “We potentially could have the same for strawberries – different varieties with different sensory properties and therefore different applications and markets.”
Through establishing a range of strawberry varieties, the research aims to tailor the fruit to different consumers needs, whether that be for home or commercial culinary use.
Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Principal Plant Breeder Dr Jodie Neal said the project would develop knowledge about strawberry genetics to improve their quality.
“The consumer and sensory testing will involve evaluating niche lines of white, pink and dark burgundy strawberries,” Dr Neal said.
“We’ll be exploring texture, taste and aroma volatiles and consumer acceptance. We hope this phase will help us link the flavour to the genetics to develop genetic markers to predict flavour in future varieties.”
A multi-disciplinary team including nine PhD students has been assembled to develop molecular tools and other types of rapid analytical techniques to identify genetic traits across a range of breeding programs.
According to the Horticulture Statistics Handbook (HSH), Australia produces more than 82,000 tonnes of strawberries each year, with a value of $435 million.
HSH states that more than 42 per cent of production is in southern Queensland.