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Miracle Strawberry To Be Available Soon
After growing - and tasting - thousands of strawberries over the past decade, Harry Swartz, owner of Five Aces Breeding, has developed a new "million dollar" variety that ripens all at once and is suitable for mechanical harvest. It should be on the market within the next few years.
  Swartz, a plant sciences professor at the University of Maryland, has developed many successful raspberry varieties working with client companies in Chile, England, Spain, Mexico and the U.S.
  A decade ago, he began working with strawberries, crossing commercial varieties with wild strawberry varieties and planting as many as 25,000 plants per year in breeding fields in the U.S. and other countries.
  It's been a Don Quixote-like quest, Swartz says.
  "Once in a while you succeed," he explains. "I just didn't realize I'd have to eat all these strawberries. You eat 1,500 to get one with just the right mix of flavors and aromas."
  Swartz says he has discovered berries with intense aromas and the flavors of vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate and mint. After years of plant selection, Swartz says some of those berries should be in grocery stores on the Eastern seaboard in 2008.
  Meanwhile, Swartz continues work on what may be a "million dollar" plant that could change the commercial strawberry industry. While evaluating plants in Huelva, Spain, in 2006, Swartz and an English researcher found a unique plant. Instead of the familiar three-bladed leaves, the plant had single-bladed leaves. Instead of a cluster of blossoms that ripen at different times, the plant had single trusses that all ripen at the same time.
  Named Monophylla for its single leaf, the plant is being studied by Gary Coleman at the University of Maryland to figure out the genes responsible for its unique traits as well as its optimal growth environment. It will also need to be crossed with other varieties to get the berries to stand up better for mechanical harvest.
  Swartz explains that there is concern that in another decade strawberry growers will have a difficult time finding workers for the labor-intensive job of picking berries. As he and others work on suitable plants, other researchers are working on developing mechanical harvesters.
  "The goal is to have people eat more fruit," Swartz says. "We want to offer people alternatives."
  Variety development takes time and is expensive, however. As Swartz works on his new variety, he isn't certain how or when it will be released to the market.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Harry Swartz, Five Acres Breeding, 16022 Gerald Rd., Laurel, Maryland 20707 (ph 240 393-8224; hjswartz@umd.edu; five acres breeding.com).


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2007 - Volume #31, Issue #6