SPEAKER 1: This is the production of Cornell University.
COURTNEY WEBER: So I thought-- I get asked a lot about how long does it take to get a variety out? What is the process? So I thought I'd walk you through what we did with Archer, my newest strawberry. And it is-- it can be a long process. So the Archer was a selection I made very early in my career here at Cornell. And it was done very much in the traditional sense of things. And so you'll see, every step was done through the field on a year-by-year basis and it takes a long time doing it that way. So we've got some strategies we've worked on, and I'll talk about how we've been speeding that up.
But this is how Archer started. So in '99, we made some crosses, made some hybridizations. I didn't have a lot of information to go on. I hadn't worked on berries for very long. But we had the records from the past breeder and we made some crosses. Collected the seed in 2000. That seed got treating, got planted out into the field. You just grow them in the field. So we planted them in rows and let them grow. Those have to grow a year, go through a winter. The next spring, we get to see fruit.
Now, we've cleaned that up a little bit. We use plastic. We put them on plastic to help with weed control. But the process is generally the same. We put them in the ground one spring, the next spring we get to see fruit. Helps as well. We used a little bit of raised beds when you get a lot of water. This year, that didn't happen. But last year, we had water. It was so high, it went almost over the beds. So some years, we get a lot of rain and some years, you get none. But you can't know that in advance.
So in 2001, we made the selection. So this is a 2001 selection. I made some notes that day when I selected it. It's a huge king berry. Often, the primary berry that comes off a strawberry in the industry, they'll call it the king berry. I put very large Q. Well, I use the term Q, queen berry, as well, rather than secondary because it's easier to write. But that's not generally used in the industry.
And I wrote that it was firm, had good interior color, good flavor, tart. That's what I had to go on. I made some notes that day and I picked three fruit. A primary berry, a secondary berry, and a tertiary berry. You add those up, it's almost 100 grams of fruit.
So I calculated, if you took 100 grams of fruit, which is only three berries per plant on a per acre basis, that's over 4,000 pounds. Each plant produces more than three fruit. So this is the kind of thing-- when we see this kind of thing, we're like, wow, we got yield right away because we got a lot of fruit size. It comes off very quickly. And it comes off at once.
And for us to have a tertiary berry in the 16-gram size is a very good berry in the marketplace. 25 will get you about this big. 55-- or 50 grams will be about the size of a plum. So it's a very large berry. That's larger than what you normally see. And we like-- we'll pick berries down to about 8 to 10 grams, is acceptable for a commercial product.
So that year we had one plant. That's all there is, is one plant from that one seed. So whatever runners it produced, we collected those runners, rooted them, and start-- and, well, there is a picture from that first plant. They're not the prettiest things. I'm out there holding them with one hand, taking a picture with the other. So it's really not-- I'm not a photographer. But it's-- for me, it gets it in my head, so I can look back and say, oh, I remember that one. And that's what we do. To have a picture, kind of a record, as we go.
We started a plot. It took a year to make the runners. Then you plant them again, you gotta wait another year before they fruit again. So that takes a year. We planted and then we look at it for two or three years, because we want to see, is it going to live? Is it going to have some disease that wipes it out in the first or second year? Is the fruit going to grow? Are the plants going to grow? Are they going to produce runners?
So we collect more runners from the next plot. And then you plant another plot and you do it again to make sure. Because you've got a plant in different locations to make sure you didn't plant it in the best possible location and it was great, but in a bad location, it's going to die very quickly. So we planted multiple plots at different locations so that we can see this over time.
And then we have to evaluate it for several years to see how it comes through winter, to see how the plants grow. Will they persist in the field? Will it have a good yield every year? It takes time to go through this. And it can really take a long time. And during that way, most of the selections get sloughed off. They're found wanting for whatever reason. They're susceptible to some disease. They don't produce enough runners. The fruit quality declines over time. These are things that you see.
We take more pictures. So we want to make sure we're planting the same plant every time and that, when it produces fruit, the fruit looks like what we think it's supposed to look like. So each time, each cycle, you're taking pictures to make sure everything is the same.
At that point, we decided these are looking good. They're very consistent. We're going to move it into tissue culture. Because to take it off the station, we need disease-free plants. I can't collect stuff from the field and send it out to growers or to a nursery and it could have any kind of pathogen on it. So we move it into tissue culture to clean it up. Make sure it doesn't have any viruses. Make sure it doesn't have [INAUDIBLE], verticillium, various fungal pathogens. And that takes-- can take a few months, but it could take a year or more, too. Some varieties don't tissue culture well.
So we've got plants. We have to check them for virus. We have to produce more plants, so we can put them back out in the field, make sure tissue culture didn't screw it up. Sometimes you put things in tissue culture, what you get out of tissue culture doesn't look like what you put in. And so we have to make sure that we grow plants, make sure they're true to type, make sure they look like what you expect them to look like. All this takes time.
And we, of course, take more pictures. We want to make sure it looks like it's supposed to look like. You have to make sure you have the same product that, in the end, of what you started with. So we confirm trueness of type. At that stage, we're like, OK, we've got virus-free plants. Let's send it to the nursery so they can propagate it in large numbers, that way we can get it to some of the growers.
So in 2014, we sent out 16,000, plus, plants to 11 growers across the state so they could grow it in a large scale and give me some feedback on how it looks for them. How does it look in a commercial setting? Up to that point, we had 25-foot plots at the biggest. So now, they get 1,000 plants or 2,000 plants and you can see it on an eighth of an acre or a quarter of an acre and actually see it on a large scale.
They evaluate it the first year. They evaluate it again in the second year, because you want to see-- most of the growers will grow it in a perennial setting and they want to see it more than one year. So all this takes 15 years. We get to this point and we're, finally, OK, It's time to release it. And you're here today. It's being released today. It's being announced. So it is available to growers now. They won't plant it until next year. But, of course, we're taking pictures all along to make sure that it's the same thing. Question?
AUDIENCE: When you sent that out to the growers--
COURTNEY WEBER: Yes.
AUDIENCE: --are they paying for the plants or do you give it to them for free?
COURTNEY WEBER: So what the growers will pay-- what the growers will do-- or what the nursery will charge is a propagation fee--
COURTNEY WEBER: --so that the cost of propagation is offset.
COURTNEY WEBER: So it is not the same price that is-- we're not selling the plants. They're offsetting the cost of propagation. It's semantics. but it is not available to commercial growers. In this case, it was only available to growers of the New York State Berry Growers Association through a cooperative agreement with Cornell University that we have with the association.
COURTNEY WEBER: So we didn't send it to just any growers. We sent it to growers who were part of this organization that we had a contract with for doing the testing. And so this was this year. This was fruit I got from a commercial grower. It looked great. He was happy with it. We moved forward so that it's now going to be available.
And they will plant the first commercial crop this coming spring in 2017. Of course, we won't see that fruit until 2018. So, again, there's time every time you have to grow the plant, so it can really take a long time to get through it. So how do we--
SPEAKER 1: This has been a production of Cornell University. On the web at Cornell.edu.
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Horticulture Section berry breeder Courtney Weber traces the steps he had to take to bring his new release 'Archer' strawberry to market.