Kansas State University researcher Cary Rivard has been awarded $67,000 to design a system to help boost U.S. strawberry production.
The goal of Rivard’s project, which was one of 18 projects to be funded, is to design a production system that makes strawberries less prone to crop failures, provide a more stable income stream for producers and encourage new growers to enter the industry. It will also develop knowledge related to frost protection, which is costly and uses valuable water and fuel resources.
The project is funded by a grant from the Walmart Foundation and administered by the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Center for Agricultural and Rural Sustainability (CARS). The grant award is part of a $3 million donation made by the Walmart Foundation earlier this year to the Division of Agriculture.
As part of the National Strawberry Sustainability Initiative, grant recipients will have 12 months to complete their projects. CARS will release project reports in September 2014.
Rivard, who is an assistant professor of horticulture at K-State, and a fruit and vegetable specialist with K-State Research and Extension, is based at K-State’s Horticulture Research and Extension Center in Olathe, Kan.
Strawberries rank as the fifth most popular consumed fresh fruit product in the U.S., which produces 27 percent of the world supply, according to CARS.
The goal of the overall funding for all of the projects is to increase local and regional production of strawberries, to reduce the environmental impact of production, to reduce transportation distances between farms and markets or consumers, and to reduce product loss in the supply-value chain, said Curt Rom, Arkansas horticulture professor and member of the CARS leadership team in the award announcement. In addition, the work aims to improve the environmental and economic sustainability of the production system.
“Upon completion of these projects, we will have a foundation for improving the sustainability of the U.S. strawberry production system through the supply chain, from growers to consumers,” Rom said.