Strawberry breeding is a highly competitive global industry
In the early 20th Century, a new piece of legislation in the United States – Plant Patent Act of 1930 – gave breeders of plants the same rights over their ‘inventions’ as mechanical and chemical inventors had through patent law. Breeding in the USA stepped up in earnest when the Federal Department of Agriculture started to fund breeding programmes through Universities. Many varieties of strawberry are now bred in the US at the University of California and the University of Florida.
Strawberry propagation occurs via runners and not seed
If you’ve grown strawberries before you’ll have noticed that often the plants throw out several long, leafless stalks known as ‘runners’. Established strawberry plants will send out multiple runners over the soil surface. Each runner has a tiny plant at its end and these can be rooted and grown on to produce new plants. This is how large commercial quantities of strawberry plants are produced by highly specialised runner growers.
To propagate varieties for commercial sale in Australia, runner growers are certified to ensure a high standard of plant propagation and that varieties with Plant Breeders’ Rights protection are only grown under the correct licence conditions.
Following a difficult 2019 runner season on the Granite Belt which saw prolonged drought conditions resulting in reduced plant numbers and significant water cartage costs to finish the season, Red Jewel made the decision to relocate a large portion of their business away from the Granite Belt until such time as sufficient water becomes available at our bareroot runner operation at Ballandean.
Red Jewel made the decision to expand our plug plant operation and established a new specialized plug plant operation near Armidale on the NSW New England tablelands. The site was chosen because of its temperate climate and abundant supply of good quality irrigation water from Commissioner’s Waters which is a tributary of the Gara River. Being located at over 1000m of altitude provides cool nights and in conjunction with having a high solar exposure ensures that plants have an optimum growing environment prior to being dispatched to growers for early fruit production.
The greenfield site was transformed with the installation of number of screen houses and two climate controlled Cravo greenhouse and associated processing facilities for the production of strawberry plug plants. With automated ventilation of roof and side walls and an investment in a state-of-the-art irrigation facility, the Cravo greenhouses ensures the climate within the greenhouses are maintained at an ideal growing environment to ensure optimum growth of mother-stock and plug plants.
Along with the plug plants mother-stock, Red Jewel now produces all of its foundation (F1) and foundation increase (F2) plant stock in substate systems resulting in only the final years production of bareroot runners being produced in the soil minimising the potential for soil borne disease to infect the plants and ensuring the highest quality of plants are supplied to growers.
ASPAA High Health Accredited Producer
It has been widely acknowledged that the Granite Belt has been in the grip of a severe drought with only 25% of the average annual rainfall in 2019. Additionally, 12 of the last 15 months have been in the top 10% of hottest months on record and numerous storms incorporating hail have added to the challenges.
To mitigate these challenges Sweet’s Strawberry Runners have implemented a runner and plug growing program across four separate sites to ensure customer requirements can be met in terms of meeting plant priority orders.
Toolangi Certified Strawberry Runner Growers’ Co-op Ltd
The Toolangi Certified Strawberry Growers Co-operative (TCSRGC) was originally formed in 1960 and is the longest serving runner producer in Australia. Today the TCSRGC is comprised of eight grower families dedicated to supplying healthy plants that deliver high profits for fruit growers.
The TCSRGC is located in the Great Dividing Range at Toolangi, Victoria, in a state-declared ‘Plant Protection District’. This means that many plants and plant materials (including strawberry fruit) are prohibited from entering the district, and this helps protect against the entry of strawberry pests and pathogens. The high elevation at Toolangi ensures that strawberry plants receive optimum ‘chill’ for high fruit production. The area is surrounded by state forest, which also acts as a barrier against air-borne pests.
JCLM Farming Pty Ltd
ASPAA High Health Accredited Producer
Based near the small town of Ouse, 95km North West of Hobart, the farm sits at an elevation of 85m with irrigation direct from the Derwent River. The property has an average summer high temperate of 24˚C and an average summer low temperate of 9 ˚C and a monthly average rainfall over summer of just under 30mm.
JCLM Farming has established its own mother stock production system over the last three years and can now provide commercial quantities of plants to meet priority orders. The main varieties grown on the 80ha site are: Red Rhapsody, Scarlet Rose, Aussie Gem, Sundrench, Sunglow and Parisienne Kiss for the Australian winter season and Summersong and Scarlet Silk for summer fruit production.
S A and K L Perry Certified Strawberry Runner Growers
Perry Certified Strawberry Runner Growers Pty Ltd is owned by Shane and Kerri Perry and are independent runner growers accredited under VSICA. Shane grew up on a commercial strawberry runner farm and made the transition to producing his own certified runners 30 years ago.
They farm 16 acres in Toolangi using a combination of hydroponics under protective igloos and in-soil production following fumigation with methyl bromide.
Planting occurs between August and October avoiding the wet winter period and harvest between March and July each year. Most plants are distributed following harvest; however, a number are frozen and distributed between July and January.
Plants are distributed throughout Australia to home-gardeners, commercial nurseries and commercial fruit growers – the largest being Driscolls.