Skip to main content

Disease Resistant Strawberry Created

strawberry fields

The regular strawberry crop often falls victim to parasites – including black root rot which is caused by a microscopic worm, and the black vine weevil – a nasty bug brought in from Europe in the 19th century. These infestations can ruin a strawberry’s root system.

Scientists at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven have created a parasite resistant strawberry called the Rubicon. Once they are granted a patent for the Rubicon, they plan to grow the strawberry and sell to commercial growers and farms in the US.

Strawberry farmers have long since battled with the parasitic infestations – when one crop is attacked it can take two or three years until a new crop of strawberries can be safely planted in the same spot.

Richard Cowles is the scientist who performed the crossbreeding. It took him over 10 years during which he produced over 500 variations in his quest to find a disease resistant strawberry. Part of this research included taste testing the strawberries. Cowles says “The flavor is really exceptional. It’s sweet and aromatic. It’s just heavenly.”

Why did he call his revolutionary strawberry the Rubicon? Partly because it combines the color of the strawberry – ruby red – and Conn is an abbreviation for Connecticut. Also it ferefences “crossing the rubicon”, defined by as passing the point of no return.

This new strawberry is not hardy enough for most main stream supermarkets and would do better, says Cowles, in gourmet grocery stores and niche markets.

Once the patent is obtained, the plant will be tested for other viruses at Nourse Farms, in Whately, Mass., and once it's cleared it will be propagated and produced there.