The University of California, Davis, and the California Strawberry Commission recently agreed to a new future for the university’s public Strawberry Breeding Program.
The UC-Davis Strawberry Breeding Program has been breeding strawberries and releasing cultivated varieties to the agricultural industry since the 1930s. According to a university news release, the program supplies more than half of the world’s strawberry varieties. The California Strawberry Commission is a state government agency charged with conducting research to support California’s strawberry industry.
As part of this renewed commitment to a public breeding program that creates new varieties for California’s strawberry farmers, UC-Davis has hired Steven Knapp to lead the program. Knapp served on the faculty of Oregon State University in the Department of Crop and Soil Science for 19 years from 1985, and then joined the faculty of the University of Georgia, Athens, in the Institute of Plant Breeding Genetics and Genomics for five years.
“We are thrilled to have Steve join us as we design a new strawberry breeding program for the 21st century,” says Helene Dillard, dean of the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Prior to joining UC-Davis, Knapp worked for Monsanto’s Vegetable Research and Development program in Woodland, California, where he served as the global director for breeding of cucurbit crops for two years, and then the global director for vegetable breeding technology for three years.
“I look forward to serving as an ambassador for the public breeding program on behalf of the university and state, and working with leaders from industry and academia — as well as stakeholders and colleagues throughout California and abroad — to tackle scientific challenges in strawberry production, breeding, genetics and genomics,” he says.
Knapp received his doctoral degree in agronomy and plant breeding from the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, and holds master’s and bachelor’s degrees in plant science from the University of Nevada, Reno.
Highlights of the legal settlement include further partnership opportunities for the UC-Davis Strawberry Breeding Program and the California Strawberry Commission.
During the next five years, UC-Davis will release new strawberry varieties that will be available to all farmers, and the California Strawberry Commission will assist UC-Davis in its identification of new commercial varieties. As part of the settlement, a new strawberry advisory committee will be formed, comprising university representatives, strawberry farmers and commission representatives.
Since 1956, California’s strawberry farmers have supported the UC-Davis Strawberry Breeding Program through the California Strawberry Commission (formerly the California Strawberry Advisory Board). Annual contributions and research grants through the commission have contributed millions of dollars to support the development of strawberry varieties uniquely adapted to California’s exceptional growing environment.
The settlement brings to a close legal disagreements dating back to October 2013, when the commission filed a lawsuit against the university related to the strawberry breeding program’s research agreement with the commission. Both that lawsuit and the university’s counter suit, filed in October 2014, are ended by this settlement.