Feb 26, 2019
Well-Pict debuts disease-resistant strawberry varieties

Well-Pict of Watsonville, California, is planting two new proprietary varieties of strawberries bred for resistance against soil pathogens.

Dan Crowley, vice president of sales and marketing for Well-Pict, said the two varieties are hoped to have increased resistance to soil pathogens such as verticillium wilt. He said some Well-Pict farms in southern California have had die-offs in recent years due to such diseases.

Verticillium wilt in years past was controlled with fumigation, but some of the key chemicals used in fumigation have been phased out. Once a pathogen is established in a field, it’s population may increase with successive crops, according to production guidelines from the California Strawberry Commission.

Crowley said that Well-Pict spends millions of dollars each year developing proprietary varieties.

“It’s an ongoing process,” he said. “We choose to do this to differentiate ourselves.”

For Well-Pict’s strawberry breeding program, disease resistance is of less importance than consumer-desired traits, he said.

The program’s five desired traits in order of most important to least important are:

  • Flavor.
  • Appearance.
  • Aroma.
  • Yield
  • Disease resistance.

It typically takes seven years to develop a variety, he said. Plants are raised in a greenhouse and nursery setting before being planted in field trials, he said.

Part of the challenge for breeders, though, is to find a single variety with all of those desired characteristics.

“You’ve got to get them all aligned and that’s not easy,” Crowley said.

The company, formed in 1969, uses experienced independent growers to grow its proprietary strawberries and raspberries. By using growers in the different regions of Florida, Northern California and Southern California, it’s able to sell berries year-round.

“Well-Pict Berries have been bred by hand to produce a sweeter taste than your average berry, and they also contain savory undertones and subtle, complex high notes,” according to a description on the company website.

Stephen Kloosterman, FGN Associate Editor

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