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Chad E. Finn, Jorge B. Retamales, Gustavo A. Lobos, and James F. Hancock

The cultivated strawberry of South America, the octoploid Fragaria chiloensis, has a long and interesting history. Although the origin of the species in Chile has not been completely determined, it may have been introduced from North America by birds. After making landfall in Chile, the species spread from the coast into the mountains eventually developing four biotypes. At least two native peoples, the Mapuche, between Rio Bío-Bío and south–central Chile, and the Picunche, between Rio Itata and Rio Bío-Bío, began the domestication process. Although white- and red-fruited forms were domesticated, the white form (likely because of its fruit size) may have been preferred because the red-fruited types are not mentioned as frequently in the literature. At the time of the Spanish invasion of Chile, F. chiloensis was widely grown in small garden plots. Under the Spanish rule, larger plantings, first of 1 to 2 ha and later of many hectares, were grown. As the Spanish continued their exploration and conquest of South America, they carried F. chiloensis with them up the western coast to Perú and Ecuador. For many years these scattered plantings were the source of fresh fruit for the burgeoning human populations. The cultivated F. ×ananassa was introduced in Chile ≈1830 but F. chiloensis was still preferentially grown. In the early 1900s, a large canning industry emerged serving hundreds of acres of F. chiloensis. By the 1950s, F. ×ananassa began to predominate and the rise in importance of the University of California and European-developed cultivars displaced much of the traditional F. chiloensis production. An increased awareness of this vast native Chilean genetic resource arose in the 1980s and 1990s. Scientists at the Universidad de Talca, associated with USDA-ARS Plant Exploration Office-sponsored trips to Chile, and with El Instituto de Investigaciones Agropecuarias–Cauquenes in Chile have collected and characterized germplasm that represents not only tremendous diversity, but captures many of the land races that have been developed. This germplasm has been used in small commercial plantings (0.1 to 0.3 ha) and in breeding programs to further develop F. chiloensis commercial cultivars. A small but vibrant community of small growers, particularly in Chile and Ecuador, produce the land races for commercial sale in local markets. Approximately 30 to 40 ha of open-field plantings are cultivated in Chile with yields averaging ≈3 to 4 tons/ha. The selected F. chiloensis genotypes and collected clones from the wild have served as a valuable source of germplasm in modern breeding programs and the development of new cultivars with the white color and aromatic flavor typical of some of the traditional selections well underway.