Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited with the students, faculty and administrators at the University of New Hampshire as part of USDA’s ‘Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food’ college tour.
Deputy Secretary Merrigan had the opportunity to learn about current research efforts from staff at UNH’s College of Life Sciences and Agriculture including research on strawberry genomics conducted by Thomas M. Davis, Professor, Department of Biological Sciences.
The strawberry genomics research program at UNH is engaged in basic and applied research aimed at understanding the structure, evolution, and expression of the strawberry genome, and at the development of novel strawberry germplasm. Their goal is to provide the knowledge and tools needed to serve the coming era of marker-assisted breeding of strawberry and other specialty crops. Marker assisted breeding is a technology that relies upon DNA fingerprinting techniques to identify plants with superior genetic constitutions, yet involves no “genetic modification” of the plant itself except that achievable via the conventional breeding techniques of cross pollination and variety selection.
Over the past year, an international consortium of researchers has self-assembled around the goal of generating the first strawberry genome sequence. The effort is formally led by the laboratories of Vladimir Shulaev (Virginia Bioinformatics Institute) and Kevin Folta (University of Florida), but involves intensive efforts by many laboratories both within and outside the U.S, including the New Hampshire Agricultural Experiment Station.
The subject of this sequencing effort is the yellow-fruited variety, ‘Hawaii 4’, of the Alpine strawberry, Fragaria vesca f. semperflorens. ‘Hawaii 4’ differs from the commonly cultivated strawberry in two important ways. One is its distinctive yellow fruit.
By Aaron Lavallee, USDA Communications Coordinator