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Strawberry study serves as sweet news for growers

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New research from the University of Western Australia has provided valuable insights into the devastating fungal infection, Fusarium Wit which attacks strawberries.

The strawberry killer is said to destroy over one million strawberry plants in WA alone according to ABC Rural.

 “We have been able to identify the first true host resistance in strawberries to this devastating pathogen worldwide,” said Professor Martin Barbetti from UWA.

“[Fusarium Wilt] has a big impact on strawberry production in Australia and it has a big impact on strawberry exports from Australia. Up until now, it has been hard for growers to even know what the core of the problem was.”

The researchers teamed up with local strawberry growers including Gerry Verheyen who has been involved in the project since 2008. Verheyen says that the fungal infection significantly impacts on the industry and current treatment options are very costly.

“It will be the biggest issue [for the industry] in the future,” he said.

Some strawberry varieties have proven to be more resistant than others, but tend to perform poorly with consumers at the checkout. The research sought inform growers of how to better produce more resistant commercial varieties by uncovering how the resistance operates and what make its durable.

"We knew long term that if [growers] are really going to be able to maintain a strawberry industry in Western Australia, they need to be able to access varieties that are resistant to Fusarium wilt,” said Barbetti.

Image credit: Sharon Mollerus via photopin cc

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