The genetic secrets of the wild strawberry were unravelled in late 2010 by a group of scientists, including New Zealand-based researchers at Plant & Food Research.

Scientists from 38 organisations in 10 countries collaborated to publish the complete DNA sequence of the woodland strawberry.

This genome sequence will be used by scientists to identify genes and gene function in a number of fruit crops, ultimately speeding up the time it takes to produce new varieties that taste sweeter, are larger or smaller or have different colours or whatever market research says people might like!

The strawberry has the smallest genome in the Rosaceae family, which includes other well known high value fruits such as apples, peaches, nectarines, almonds and berries and is vital for modern horticulture.

Due to its quick reproduction time and the small area needed to grow the plant, the strawberry is an ideal model plant for fruit gene studies.

Using the strawberry genome to identify and understand genes that control key traits such as colour and flavour, scientists can identify the matching gene in other fruit plants and screen breeding populations for individual plants with ideal characteristic combinations.

The group working on the strawberry genes sequenced the wild plant's genome by breaking it up into millions of short segments that were sequenced individually and then reassembled.

Plants tend to have more complex DNA than animals, and the scientists identified 34,809 genes in the wild strawberry. Humans have around 20,000 to 25,000 genes.

    Published 13 January 2011