The history of the breeding of this species dates back to the 17th century. The experimental works with multiple Fragaria species in Europe led to the accidental crossing of two wild strawberry species, F. Chiloensis x F. virginiana Mill. As a result Fragaria x Duchesne large-fruit strawberry was created. Since then many years have passed and from primitive forms over the years, the strawberry has reached the form found in our gardens and on store shelves.
Strawberry cultivar breeding program at Niwa
The aim is to obtain new varieties adapted to the local natural and economic conditions.
The crossing method is based on a careful selection of parental pairs, a mass production of seedlings, a „sharp” selection of progeny plants and a careful evaluation of breeding clones.
200-300 cross combinations are made annually. The number of produced seedlings reaches 20 thousand, of which about 1% of seedlings achieve the status of selected seedling, and after their vegetative propagation, breeding clones.
The directed breeding includes dessert varieties for field and under cover breeding, including these that fruit in late summer and fall. The important direction is to obtain a variety intended for processing, including freezing.
Since the beginning of its activity in Spring of 2012, Niwa Breeding Company Ltd. Situated in Brzezna has been running an intensive program of creating new strawberry varieties. The program includes the cultivation of varieties useful for various directions of processing, such as freezing or concentrates. Other food processing branches are also considered, including dairy, confectionery and, for example, freeze-drying of fruit. The important purpose of breeding is also the creation of varieties with multidirectional use, i.e., for processing and for desserts.
At the same time, it is equally important for us to breed varieties for the fresh fruit market in the field technology as well as in high foil tunnels. In this breeding direction, we take into account two forms of strawberries: traditionally fruiting – with early, medium and late bearing term, and fruiting from spring to autumn (all season). In our breeding activities, we also try to consult the needs of garden owners, plots, terraces, balconies, etc. (e.g., „climbing” strawberries). The so-called „dessert” strawberries are a big challenge due to the enormous competition on the market of nursery and breeding companies. In our company, we have obtained many creations that are currently at the stage of field and the laboratory evaluation.
The strawberry breeding program in Niwa is very rich and multidirectional, but also difficult, which results, among other things, from the strawberry biology. As an octoploid, unlike, for example, raspberries (diploid), it requires specific breeding methods (se.g., a larger progeny population within a given cross). A very large split of traits within a species makes it more difficult to predict inheritance, often these are assumptions which effect more or less corresponds to the breeder’s expectations.
In order to accomplish the tasks, the program is carried out in a large group of collaborators, pincluding breeders, field and laboratory technicians (including in vitro cultures) as well as producers and processors, e.g., Unifreeze (frozen food), Lioforte (lyophilisates).
We also cooperate with scientific units such as the University of Agriculture in Krakow (the issues in the field of flowering biology) or with Dr. Mirosław Krośniak from the Faculty of Pharmacy of the Bromatology Department of the Jagiellonian University Medical College, whose team creates for us every year various detailed analyzes of fruit, taking into account the specific health-promoting properties.
Strawberry as an object of this type of research is characterized by unique properties, e.g., a strawberry extract is rich in polyphenols, which show the biological activity against invasive breast cancer cells, or shows photoprotective properties.