Plant Sciences, Inc. (see our Links page for link to Plant Sciences) has become world reknown in the area of strawberry plant breeding and research. Since its inception in 1985, PSI has toiled to breed superior strawberry varieties that produce greater yields of nicely shaped, tasty fruit. Only patented strawberry plant varieties from the PSI program are raised at Manzanita Berry Farms. The dream of biotech engineering has not made inroads in the strawberry industry, yet. The breeding, therefore, relies on the classic tedious, time consuming traditional breeding method of crossing parent plants in search of seedlings that exhibit superior qualities.
The University of California has one of the most extensive strawberry breeding programs in the world. Many of the best-known strawberries were developed in the UC program - "Chandler, Douglas, Selva and Camarosa" for example. Plant Sciences, Inc. (PSI), a private organization, breeds strawberries exclusively for Well-Pict's growers and has a program that rivals that of the University of California.
At present, Manzanita Berry Farms raises only PSI variety No.592 (at right). It is a large, well shaped, tasty fruit, somewhat salmon-pink in color when ripe, that begins producing ripe fruit around mid-March in Santa Maria, some 3 weeks later that the Camarosa variety that dominates the berry landscape in California.
B. Variety Testing
Before we can plant one of the new varieties into our commercial fields, the plants must be thoroughly tested. Each new promising seedling undergoes 3-5 years of examination in test plots under field conditions to gain knowledge of its strengths and weaknesses. Once it has been proven viable for commercial planting, the plants must be reproduced in massive quantities, 30,000 plants per acre, in order to fill the commercial fields.
C. Nursery Production
Commercial strawberry plants are reproduced asexually. That is, each plant of any variety is essentially a clone, a vegetative cutting, of another plant of the same variety. Cuttings are made by burying the vegetative shoots, called runners, while they are still attached to the mother plant during the spring. Later in the year, the runners produce roots of their own beneath the surface (becoming a "daughter" plant) and are cut free from the mother plant. Therefore, every plant of one variety, Camarosa for example, is a vegetative derivative of that one original seedling that was selected for advancement in the breeding program years before. The continual growing and cutting of plants from previous ones is the job of the commercial strawberry nursery. Each year, daughter plants are dug from the ground in the fall, cleaned of soil and debris, trimmed by hand and packed into boxes for cooling and shipping to the commercial planting fields. At that time, a certain number of daughters must be held over to replant the nursery for next year's commercial plant harvest.