Priority 7: Increasing product value

Improved Variety Selection and Sustainability of Strawberries for the Eastern United States


Project LeadersNitzsche project photo 1

  • Peter Nitzsche, Rutgers Cooperative Extension
  • William Hlubik, Rutgers Cooperative Extension

Project Collaborators

  • Robert Swanekamp, Kube-Pak Corp.
  • Timothy Nourse, Nourse Farms, Inc.

Grower Cooperators

  • Alstede Farms, Chester, N.J.
  • Donaldson Farms, Hackettstown, N.J.
  • Fernbrook Farms, Chesterfield, N.J.
  • Giamarese Farm, East Brunswick, N.J.
  • Hauser Hill Farms, Old Bridge, N.
  • Hlubik Farms, Chesterfield, N.J.
  • Honey Brook Organic Farm, Pennington, N.J.
  • Simonson Farms, Cranbury, N.
  • Specca Farms, Springfield, N.J.
  • VonThun Farms, Monmouth Junction, N.J.

Project Summary

Strawberry growers in the eastern U.S. need improved strawberry varieties to increase production and capture more of the regional market. Because of this, the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station has invested in a long-term strawberry breeding program. This project expedited the evaluation of strawberry breeding selections by implementing 10 farmer observation trials on both organic and conventional farms, four university replicated trials, and consumer taste tests to provide a more rapid release and commercialization of improved cultivars. As a result, three advanced selections have been processed for patenting and will be released to the public. Additionally, this project tested larger scale propagation and distribution of nursery stock to two commercial nurseries. A series of videos were produced documenting progress of the project to educate farmers, nurserymen and consumers. More than 700 farmers, 66 extension educators, 1,000 consumers and others were reached through project activities and made aware of new Rutgers strawberries that may be available in the near future.

 Nitzsche project photo 2Project Outputs and Impacts

As a result of this project, 10 farmers gained firsthand experience in growing the advanced strawberry selections on their farms and observed performance in their production systems. Ninety-seven farmers learned about the selections at three twilight educational meetings. An additional 616 farmers gained knowledge of the strawberry selections and their potential through winter educational meetings and grower newsletters. Nearly 150 consumers participated in taste tests comparing advanced selections to commercial varieties. Based on production trials and taste test results, the Rutgers team applied for patents for three advanced selections with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Foundation stock material of three advanced selections were maintained for commercial nurseries. Two nurseries have requested licensing agreements to begin commercial production of one of the selections and have expressed interest in agreements for the others. Consumers learned about local strawberry production through tours, TV programs, radio segments, newspaper articles, educational videos, taste panels and Web-based press releases. Some 115 researchers and extension personnel gained knowledge about the project and the new strawberry selections through presentations at meetings and conferences. This has helped create a stronger research and extension network to advance regional sustainable strawberry production and strawberry variety development. Nearly 300 students and 53 Master Gardeners were made aware of the project through educational opportunities. They can use their increased knowledge of sustainable strawberry production to inform a greater audience.

Project Photos