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Michelle L. Paynter, Joanne De Faveri, and Mark E. Herrington

Fusarium wilt of strawberry, incited by Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. fragariae (Fof), is a major disease of the cultivated strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) worldwide. An increase in disease outbreaks of the pathogen in Western Australia and Queensland plus the search for alternative disease management strategies place emphasis on the development of resistant cultivars. In response, a partial incomplete diallel cross involving four parents was performed for use in glasshouse resistance screenings. The resulting progeny were evaluated for their susceptibility to Fof. Best-performing progeny and suitability of progenies as parents were determined using data from disease severity ratings and analyzed using a linear mixed model incorporating a pedigree to produce best linear unbiased predictions of breeding values. Variation in disease response, ranging from highly susceptible to resistant, indicates a quantitative effect. The estimate of the narrow-sense heritability was 0.49 ± 0.04 (se), suggesting the population should be responsive to phenotypic recurrent selection. Several progeny genotypes have predicted breeding values higher than any of the parents. Knowledge of Fof resistance derived from this study can help select best parents for future crosses for the development of new strawberry cultivars with Fof resistance.

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Mark E. Herrington, Craig Hardner, Malcolm Wegener, Louella Woolcock, and Mark J. Dieters

The Queensland strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) breeding program in subtropical Australia aims to improve sustainable profitability for the producer. Selection must account for the relative economic importance of each trait and the genetic architecture underlying these traits in the breeding population. Our study used estimates of the influence of a trait on production costs and profitability to develop a profitability index (PI) and an economic weight (i.e., change in PI for a unit change in level of trait) for each trait. The economic weights were then combined with the breeding values for 12 plant and fruit traits on over 3000 genotypes that were represented in either the current breeding population or as progenitors in the pedigree of these individuals. The resulting linear combination (i.e., sum of economic weight × breeding value for all 12 traits) estimated the overall economic worth of each genotype as H, the aggregate economic genotype. H values were validated by comparisons among commercial cultivars and were also compared with the estimated gross margins. When the H value of ‘Festival’ was set as zero, the H values of genotypes in the pedigree ranged from –0.36 to +0.28. H was highly correlated (R 2 = 0.77) with the year of selection (1945–98). The gross margins were highly linearly related (R 2 > 0.98) to H values when the genotype was planted on less than 50% of available area, but the relationship was non-linear [quadratic with a maximum (R 2 > 0.96)] when the planted area exceeded 50%. Additionally, with H values above zero, the variation in gross margin increased with increasing H values as the percentage of area planted to a genotype increased. High correlations among some traits allowed the omission of any one of three of the 12 traits with little or no effect on ranking (Spearman’s rank correlation 0.98 or greater). Thus, these traits may be dropped from the aggregate economic genotype, leading to either cost reductions in the breeding program or increased selection intensities for the same resources. H was efficient in identifying economically superior genotypes for breeding and deployment, but because of the non-linear relationship with gross margin, calculation of a gross margin for genotypes with high H is also necessary when cultivars are deployed across more than 50% of the available area.

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Mark E. Herrington, Craig Hardner, Malcolm Wegener, Louella L. Woolcock, and Mark J. Dieters

In Queensland, Australia, strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa Duchesne) are grown in open fields and rainfall events can damage fruit. Cultivars that are resistant to rain damage may reduce losses and lower risk for the growers. However, little is known about the genetic control of resistance and in a subtropical climate, unpredictable rainfall events hamper evaluation. Rain damage was evaluated on seedling and clonal trials of one breeding population comprising 645 seedling genotypes and 94 clones and on a second clonal population comprising 46 clones from an earlier crossing to make preliminary estimates of heritability. The incidence of field damage from rainfall and damage after laboratory soaking was evaluated to determine if this soaking method could be used to evaluate resistance to rain damage. Narrow-sense heritability of resistance to rain damage calculated for seedlings was low (0.21 ± 0.15) and not significantly different from zero; however, broad-sense heritability estimates were moderate in both seedlings (0.49 ± 0.16) and clones (0.45 ± 0.08) from the first population and similar in clones (0.56 ± 0.21) from the second population. Immersion of fruit in deionized water produced symptoms consistent with rain damage in the field. Lengthening the duration of soaking of ‘Festival’ fruit in deionized water exponentially increased the proportion of damage to fruit ranging in ripeness from immature to ripe during the first 6-h period of soaking. When eight genotypes were evaluated, the proportion of sound fruit after soaking in deionized water in the laboratory for up to 5 h was linearly related (r 2 = 0.90) to the proportion of sound fruit in the field after 89 mm of rain. The proportion of sound fruit of the breeding genotype ‘2008-208’ and ‘Festival’ under soaking (0.67, 0.60) and field (0.52, 0.43) evaluations, respectively, is about the same and these genotypes may be useful sources of resistance to rain damage.

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Mark E. Herrington, Craig K. Chandler, Jennifer A. Moisander, and Claire E. Reid

‘Rubygem’, a new short-day strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.), produces high yields of moderately firm, attractive well-flavored fruit from late autumn through early spring in the strawberry-growing district in Southeast Queensland. ‘Rubygem’ is recommended for trial in areas with mild winter climates, especially where rainfall is unlikely and a well-flavored berry is required.

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Michelle L. Paynter, Elizabeth Czislowski, Mark E. Herrington, and Elizabeth A.B. Aitken

Variation in the virulence of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. fragariae (Fof) strains is important when evaluating the resistance of plants to this fungus. Twenty-five isolates of F. oxysporum harvested from strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) plants growing in Australia were characterized using pathogenicity tests, vegetative compatibility groups (VCGs), and genetic analysis of translation elongation factor 1 alpha (EF-1α). The level of disease varied depending on isolate used, indicating heterogeneous populations of Fof. Two distinct VCGs were identified and corresponded to two of the 10 lineages identified by partial EF-1α. Using a subset of Fof isolates, resistance in eight cultivars ranged from highly resistant to highly susceptible, with some cultivar × isolate interaction. ‘Strawberry Festival’, ‘QHI Sugarbaby’, and ‘DPI Rubygem’ had high levels of resistance across all isolates. Isolates from Western Australia (WA) were genetically distinct from those from Queensland (QLD) and were more virulent to ‘Camarosa’, a major cultivar grown in WA.

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Mark E. Herrington, Svenning Prytz, Ross M. Wright, Ian O. Walker, Peter Brown, Denis M. Persley, and Ray S. Greber