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NC State Extension

The NC State Strawberry Team

North Carolina State University provides excellence in all areas of strawberry research and extension

North Carolina State University (NC State) has been a platform for research, outreach and education to strawberry growers in the Southeast for decades.  The North Carolina strawberry industry looks back on a rich and successful history of collaborative work with NC State, and we are proud to serve a successful and growing strawberry production and nursery industry in North Carolina.

Today, NC State University is one of the leading research and extension entities for strawberries in the US. NC State provides unique research and extension resources across the whole strawberry supply chain, from micropropagation and virus free facilities, over a vital strawberry breeding program and emerging strawberry propagation and nursery research program, to a wide range of strawberry production and pest management resources and researchpost harvest handling, and a diverse extension and outreach program. Specialists, professors, students, extension personnel and farmers are all contributing to a constantly growing body of knowledge on strawberries. Our strawberry portal (this homepage) aims to provide frequent updates (subscribe to our blog) as well as resources to strawberry growers in the Southeast, the US and worldwide.

In the following we want to give a short overview of the capacities at NC State, and put some names to our strawberry program. We explain who we are and what we do to make NC State the leading and most comprehensive public service on strawberries in the Southeast.

Micropropagation, Tissue Culture and Virus free Plant Material:

The NC State Micropropagation and Repository Unit (MPRU),under the lead of Dr. Christy Almeyda (Director), provides certified pathogen-tested material of both table-stock and ornamental sweetpotatoes as well as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, blueberries and muscadine grapes. The NC State MPRU is a part of the National Clean Plant Network (NCPN) and has virus testing capacity, and also keeps a repository of true-to-type mother plants that are put through tissue culture.

Breeding and Variety Trialing:

NC States’ strawberry breeding program under the lead of Dr. Gina Fernandez develops cultivars adapted to the southeastern US. The overall goal is to develop cultivars with superior horticultural traits (yield, flavor, size, etc), however our program is unique in that we are developing markers  for resistance to what we have called the “hidden enemy” or more technically known as hemibiotrophic stage of fruit and crown anthracnose. Our program tests standard and new cultivars from other programs to determine if they are adapted to North Carolina. The program works closely with the MPRU as well as the production systems program at NC state. In 2019, the program has released two new short-day varieties (Rocco and Liz).

Production and Nursery Systems:

NC States’ strawberry production and nursery systems program is led by Dr. Mark Hoffmann, who also is the small fruits extension specialist at NC State. The program informs directly the extension systems, and performs production research in the areas of strawberry management, cold protection and plant conditioning. The program is utilizing the large research station network associated with NC States’ College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as well as greenhouse facilities of the Department of Horticulture and controlled environment facilities (Phytotron) on campus.

Disease, Weed and Pest Management Systems:

Strawberry disease, weed and pest management research and outreach has a long tradition at NC State, resulting in top research and critical extension products for strawberry growers. NC States’ plant disease and insect clinic, located at the main campus in Raleigh, is collaborating closely with specialists to provide the best possible service if a problem needs to be identified. The NSF Center of Integrated Pest Management is located at the centennial campus in Raleigh, providing services in Regulatory Pest InformaticsStrategic Pest Management, and Social-Ecological Pest Analytics.

Plant extension pathologist Bill Cline, fruit entomologist and extension specialist Dr. Hannah Burrack and weed scientist and extension specialist Dr. Katie Jennings are providing excellent resources for strawberry growers all across the Southeast and collaborate on disease, pest and weed management guidelines. Those are updated every year and can be found in the NC State Ag Chemical Manual and in the Strawberry Integrated Pest Management Guide.

Fruit specific extension portals are: Entomology, Diseases, and Weeds.

Socio-Economics:

The newest addition to the strawberry capacity of NC State are Dr. Daniel Tregeagle and Dr. Heidi Schweizer, both hired in the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics in 2018. Dr. Schweizer is focusing on supply chain optimization, while Dr. Tregeagle is focusing on optimizing crop production and agricultural policy.

Extension and Outreach Systems:

NC Cooperative Extension personnel is highly engaged with commercial and consumer aspects of strawberry production for many years. In 2018, NC States’ Horticulture Program Fruit Extension Working Group was developed to create a long-lasting and comprehensive outreach program around fruit crops in North Carolina. The group is led by Dr. Mark Hoffmann, small fruits extension specialist and Paige Burns, extension county director in Richmond Co. and focuses on crop specific training, communication, team-building and impact assessments.