Jeremy Pattison, strawberry breeder and geneticist with the North Carolina State University Plants for Human Health Institute at the North Carolina Research Campus, has received a $158,391 grant from the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative.

Pattison also is a co-investigator on a second grant in the amount of $127,168, led by Brian Whipker, also with North Carolina State.

The grants will support work in transferring the latest research to strawberry growers in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia to maximize yields and profitability.

Pattison recently completed a comprehensive research program that has developed a fall growing degree day model. Pattison has extensively tested the new production practices at North Carolina State University and North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services research stations across the state.

“They show great potential to increase marketable yield, season length and stability,” he explained. “This grant will help us more effectively provide training and technology transfer to growers.”

In addition to the latest research, new technologies and tools will be shared with growers. Pattison cited a cost-effective, energy-efficient cooling system that was recently developed for use by small to medium-sized growers to increase fruit quality and reduce postharvest product loss.

Another aspect of the project will focus on educating growers about the updated comprehensive strawberry plasticulture farm budget designed to help growers better manage financial resources.

“Small growers, in particular, need inexpensive and energy-efficient cooling systems, while all growers are looking to improve fruit quality management,” he explained. “In addition, we want to help growers mitigate financial risks by demonstrating the economic impacts of production improvements.”

Others working on the National Strawberry Initiative Grant are Penelope Perkins-Veazie, postharvest physiologist; Jonathan Baros, farm management Extension associate; and Leah Chester-Davis, communications and outreach coordinator. All are with the Plants for Human Health Institute. Both Pattison and Perkins-Veazie are also members of the Department of Horticultural Science.

The project will also involve Cooperative Extension faculty from North Carolina, Clemson and Virginia Tech and a representative from Lassen Canyon Nursery, one of the premier strawberry nurseries in the world.

The strawberry industry value in the three states — North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia — is about $48 million. North Carolina’s industry value is $29.4 annually. Strawberries are the fifth most consumed fruit in the United States, and their popularity has increased by 51 percent the last 10 years.