Cal Poly Strawberry Center Among Researchers Named in $4.5 Million Grant

Contact: AnnMarie Cornejo


SAN LUIS OBISPO — The Cal Poly Strawberry Center, along with a team of scientists throughout California and Florida, has been awarded a grant to identify strawberry plants with natural disease resistance.

The $4.5 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was awarded to improve the disease resistance and sustainable production of strawberries throughout the nation.

The money will support a team of scientists at Cal Poly, UC, Davis, UC, Riverside, UC, Santa Cruz, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, and University of Florida to identify genetic markers that are naturally present in some strawberry plants. The work will help plant breeders use plants with natural disease resistance to develop new strawberry varieties that can tolerate disease in the field.

The Cal Poly Strawberry Center will receive about $480,000 of the grant funding for research on campus. The center will conduct field and laboratory research aimed at accelerating the development of disease-resistant strawberry cultivars and pathogen detection techniques.

“This grant allows the Cal Poly Strawberry Center to play a central and critical role in a national project of great importance to the strawberry industry,” said Gerald Holmes, director of the Cal Poly center. “The long-term goal is to increase the sustainability of strawberry production across the U.S.”

The collaborative grant is funded by USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative. The process is competitive, with only two grants awarded to projects in California. Cal Poly led the pathology component of the grant, said Holmes.

Both Holmes and Plant Pathologist and Professor Kelly Ivors will lead the Cal Poly team. Other collaborators include: Rachael Goodhue, Thomas Gordon, Julia Harshman, and Thomas Poorten at UC Davis; Alex Putman at UC Riverside; Oleg Daugovish with UC Agriculture and Natural Resources; Julie Guthman at UC Santa Cruz; and Seonghee Lee, Natália Peres, and Vance Whitaker at the University of Florida.

"California continues to lead the world in agricultural innovations. These grants are good news, keeping our state's strawberry farmers at the forefront of sustainable farming practices," said Karen Ross, Secretary for California Department of Food and Agriculture in a press release issued by the California Strawberry Commission announcing the grant.  

About the Cal Poly Strawberry Center

The Cal Poly Strawberry Center, in the College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences, focuses on applied research that incorporates both teaching and learning experiences for Cal Poly students, faculty and California strawberry farmers. The center is a joint partnership between Cal Poly and the California Strawberry Commission.

About Cal Poly’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences

Cal Poly is a nationally ranked, comprehensive polytechnic university. The university’s College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences is comprised of expert faculty members who take pride in their ability to transform academically motivated students into innovative professionals ready to solve the complex challenges associated with feeding the world in sustainable ways. Students have access to state-of-the-art laboratories, including ranch land, orchards, vineyards and forests, all of which provide the basis for Cal Poly’s Learn by Doing methodology. It is the fifth-largest college of agriculture in the country, with 4,000 undergraduate students.

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