Vance Whitaker, an associate professor and director of the strawberry breeding program at UF, says plants are brought from places with cooler summers than Florida, because there is less precipitation, leading to fewer diseases in the plants.
Before the plants are sent to nurseries, the program makes clean tissue cultures of the plants that are tested for diseases and viruses, Whitaker says. These cultures are then sent to the nurseries to help give the growers a clean start with the plants. Whitaker emphasizes how important it is for growers to start with clean plants.
According to Whitaker, each nursery has its own protocol to continue keeping the plants clean after receiving the initial cultures.
“What we do is give them a clean start by putting them in tissue culture and clean culture, virus testing them and disease testing them before we send the plants out that then become stock of that variety for the future,” Whitaker says.
The cultures are given to the nurseries for free. “This clean plant program is funded by the Florida Strawberry Growers Association because of how important clean stock is to the growers here,” he says.
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