A History of the Ecuadorian Strawberry, Huachi (Ambato)

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  • 1 1Dept. of Horticulture, Michigan State Univ., East Lansing, MI 48824
  • | 2 2USDA/ARS, Horticultural Crops Research Lab., Corvallis, OR 97330
  • | 3 3Oregon State Univ., Corvallis, OR 97331

Spaniards brought Fragaria chiloensis when they conquered Ecuador the mid-1700s. The `Fluachi' strawberry, which was developed from these plants, became renowned in Ecuador and was eventually produced or on 500 to 800 ha in the town of Huachi Grande near Ambato. This white-fruited, long, wedge-shaped strawberry is still praised for its firmness, flavor, aroma, and shipping quality. The fruit are produced year-round on plants grown on volcanic, sandy soils in a very dry environment at an ≈3000-m elevation near the equator. The USDA germplasm explorers Paopenoe and Darrow documented the production of the `Huachi' in the 1920s and 1950s and brought it to North America for breeding. Selections from seedling populations were determined to be red stele resistant and found their way into several Pacific Northwest cultivars, although the `Huachi' was eventually lost in North America. Recently, we traveled to Ecuador to re-collect `Huachi' and assess the strawberry industry there. Huachi is still grown commercially in Ecuador, although there are now only 4 to 5 ha remaining. Drought in the 1970s, “tired” soils, and the introduction of the more productive and easier to produce California cultivars have supplanted its cultivation. Ecuador now produces ≈350 ha of strawberries using California production systems. This fruit is exported fresh, primarily to the United Sates, or is frozen in a 4 + 1 sugar pack. We brought `Huachi' back for distribution to interested breeders and to set up fertilizer trials on an established field to try to boost its productivity.

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