Local News

NCSU researchers attempting to develop disease-resistant strawberries

Posted May 10, 2016 5:47 p.m. EDT
Updated May 11, 2016 8:16 a.m. EDT

— Picking strawberries at local farms may be difficult this season as weather and disease has dealt a devastating blow.

Researchers say about 25 percent of farmers across North Carolina have been impacted by fruit rot.

Farmers at Vollmer Farm in Bunn said hail from last week, and disease, has ruined their entire crop.

“It was a set of unfortunate circumstances that led to really a strawberry disaster,” said Russ Vollmer. “Not only does it attack the red fruit, but it goes after the green fruit as well.”

Vollmer Farm is an all organic farm and does not have many tools for dealing with rotten crops.

Researchers at North Carolina State University say they’re attempting to develop a new variety of strawberries that are disease resistant.

“We’re just looking for traits in strawberries that we’re looking to incorporate into a better strawberry,” said Dr. Gina Fernandez. “What we try to do is cross something that is big and tasty and cross with something that is disease resistant.”

Disease is also a serious financial blow to farmers. There is no federal crop insurance, so Vollmer will have to eat his losses.

According to researchers, it can take up to 15 years to develop a new fruit variety and $200,000 to run a breeding program.

“What’s exciting is that N.C. State has some wonderful, very promising varieties that they are working on, but what does this farm do until then,” Vollmer questioned.