Queensland research station helps farmers produce better strawberries

Research at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries Applethorpe research facility is helping Queensland farmers produce more attractive, flavoursome and robust strawberries.

Queensland government minister for agricultural industry development, Mark Furner, said the government’s Australian strawberry breeding program was targeting three major strawberry production regions – temperate, subtropical and Mediterranean – to get the best fruit.

“Breeding trials at Applethorpe during 2018 have developed two new varieties, Summer Song and Scarlet-silk, which are being trialled this season by strawberry producers in Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia,” he said.

“In addition, our strawberry breeding team has just commenced a new five-year, $8.6m national strawberry varietal development program, co-funded by Hort Innovation, to deliver new and improved varieties to all production regions in Queensland,” said Furner.

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More broadly, Queensland’s $3 billion fruit and vegetable production industry had benefitted from research into a range of issues.

The department’s researchers are involved in important projects to support and enhance Queensland’s reputation for producing some of the world’s safest produce, said Furner.

“The Applethorpe Research Facility is the hub of research activity for a $16.6 million five-year project to improve the resilience of crops against viral and bacterial diseases.

“This will see the development of an area wide management strategy to address high priority viral and bacterial diseases affecting vegetable crops,” he said.

“Project work is undertaken in all major Queensland vegetable production areas, including Applethorpe, and will give industry the latest recommendations on disease occurrence and management.”

Applethorpe was also renowned for the development of the disease-resistant Kalei apple, said Furner.

“The Kalei is currently being commercialised by Apple and Pear Australia Limited (APAL), the same company looking after Pink Lady on a global scale,” he said.

“We are still evaluating other promising disease resistant lines from this initial breeding program which commenced 25 years ago.

“The department is also working on high density growing systems including trellises, researching rootstocks, plant densities, row spacing and crop load management to maximise yields. The trials show the potential of producing 100t/ha where industry common practice has only resulted in half that amount,” he said.