Strawberries are one of the most popular fruits in North America. The simple pleasure of taking a bite of a juicy strawberry in the summer heat and letting it dribble down your face as a child is one so many of us are lucky to share. You just might have UBC Botanical Garden to thank for it, too.
In the mid 1980s and in partnership with Agriculture Canada (today called Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada), UBC Botanical Garden explored British Columbia helping to make comprehensive collections of Fragaria chiloensis (the beach strawberry) for breeding work. The resulting germplasm (genetic resources) was, and continues to be, used to develop new cultivars of strawberries with pathogen resistance for industry.
The collaborative effort allowed the Garden to visit and collect other plant species, like raspberries, herbs, and succulents, in areas they may otherwise not have been able to access due to travel costs or restrictions , explained Daniel Mosquin, Research Manager at UBC Botanical Garden.
During the 1980s, approximately two thousand selections of the beach strawberry were collected from 123 sites in the province. The expeditions of the BC Coastal Strawberry Collection Program took Garden staff, including Dr. Roy L. Taylor and Charles Tubesing, throughout BC’s coastal regions from Marina Island east of Campbell River to Schooner Cove in Tofino and back again. A selection from each site was evaluated from reactions to several important strawberry diseases and pests.
One selection showing multiple resistances was crossed with ‘Totem’, the leading Pacific Northwest cultivar. Dr. Hugh Daubeny, who worked with the Garden’s beach strawberry collections and was later an active Friend of the Garden (FOG), was the plant breeder behind Totem. And if you like Häagen-Dazs Strawberry ice cream, you’ve tasted it. Half of that flavour comes from Daubeny’s Totem strawberry!
So next time you enjoy summer’s first strawberry or a cold scoop of strawberry ice cream, just think, the plant breeders and scientists of UBC Botanical Garden might be behind it.
Submitted by Jessica Roberts-Farina, Work Learn Marketing & Communications Assistant, March 14, 2016