Associated Press

Relations sour between berry growers, UCD

By From page A2 | August 17, 2014

DAVIS (AP) — Things are souring between California’s strawberry growers and the UC Davis.

The Sacramento Bee reports that growers worry a university breeding program they have long relied on for new varieties will shut down. Not so, say university officials. That assurance that hasn’t stopped an association representing growers from filing a lawsuit.

Strawberry varieties developed by UC Davis represent just over half of California’s crop, which is valued at about $2 billion annually. Now, the school’s two strawberry breeders plan to leave and form their own company.

The private California Strawberry Commission, which for decades has funded research at Davis, filed a lawsuit that alleged the university plans to abandon its plant-breeding program.

UC officials filed to have the complaint dismissed in April, saying the breeding program will continue.

“We continue to be disappointed with the actions of the commission and its pursuit of a meritless lawsuit,” UCD Chancellor Linda Katehi said in an April 23 news release. “The strawberry breeding program at UC Davis is the pre-eminent public breeding program in the world today and the only public breeding program in the state. We are committed to maintaining that status for years to come.”

The university has two copies of the strawberry germplasm, which includes patented varieties, advanced selection lines, breeding stock and historical plants. One collection is in use by the current breeders, and the second collection is being maintained by the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. In addition, additional geneticists are currently being recruited to join the program.

“Despite the path the commission has chosen, UC Davis is committed to a long-term positive relationship for the benefit of California strawberry growers and more generally for state agriculture and the public,” added Katehi. “We are hopeful the commission, too, is ready to move forward and continue the important collaboration we have enjoyed for decades.”


The Associated Press

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