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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 1309: IX International Strawberry Symposium

Collaborative development of a national strawberry research and outreach project for underserved growers

Authors:   C.R. Rom, H. Friedrich, J. Ruiz-Menjivar, M. Swisher, J.B. Samtani, C.A. Chase, J. Lea-Cox, A. McWhirt
Keywords:   strawberry, Fragaria × ananassa, sustainable production, grower needs assessment survey
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2021.1309.91
The US leads the world in strawberry yield and value. While consumption and market demand increases, acreage has decreased since 2013 posing a threat to competitiveness and sustainability. California (CA) and Florida (FL) produce 92 and 7% of the crop. No other state contributes more than 1%, although strawberries are widely produced, and the other states represent approximately 20% of strawberry acreage and 80% of the producers (ca. 9,000 farms). CA and FL have check-off taxes to support local industry production and marketing priorities and additional support from corporate-funded programs. However, research and extension is limited in other states. The underserved growers in these states are not integrated into the national research and extension networks concentrated in the two production centers. In 2016, the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative working group (NSSI), which was initially funded by a public-private partnership, received a USDA-Specialty Crop Research Initiative (SCRI) planning grant “Planning to Increase the Productivity and Competitiveness of Sustainable Strawberry Systems”. The project purpose was to develop a national strategy to meet the needs of underserved farmers seeking information regarding sustainable production practices not addressed by research targeted to large-scale enterprises. The results of the proposed research were intended to be relevant to all producers. The NSSI conducted a national strawberry grower needs assessment survey focused on challenges and barriers to sustainable production. The group held several national meetings to determine project goals and outcomes. The NSSI was composed of several overlapping project teams with emphasis on cultivar development, sustainable production technologies, grower engagement and outreach, and marketing, economics and social impacts. Team leaders met monthly to prepare for future funding. Organization, collaboration and communication, goal and outcome setting strategies of the project will be presented. This paper describes the activities of the NSSI team while preparing a national research agenda.

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