November 24, 2023
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Cal Poly SLO gets funding to study strawberry plants, teach communications


Cal Poly San Luis Obispo announced Sept. 8 that it received a grant to teach environmental science communications a day after the university’s strawberry center was included in a $4.5 million study to find disease resistance in strawberry plants.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded professors Yi-Wen Chiu and Jason Peters $140,000 over three years to pilot the new curriculum, which will include science, communications and sustainable agriculture concepts.

“Creating sustainable agriculture requires scientific skills like quantitative analysis,” Peters said in a news release. “It also requires students to learn to talk to a range of stakeholders in all sorts of situations to get people working together in innovative ways based on what the science is telling us. That’s where environmental rhetoric and communication comes in.”

The project is a partnership between professors and researchers in the English, Natural Resources Management and Environmental Sciences departments, and the University Writing and Rhetoric Center at Cal Poly. The USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture funded the program, which seeks to support agricultural education and local economies.

The strawberry center at the college was also named as a recipient of a $4.5 million grant to develop strawberry plants with natural disease tolerance.

Researchers at UC Davis, UC Riverside, UC Santa Cruz, UC Agricultural and Natural Resources, and the University of Florida will also collaborate as part of the grant, looking for genetic markers that will help plant breeders grow new strawberry varieties.

The Cal Poly Strawberry Center will use around $480,000 of the grant funding to conduct field and laboratory research, including pathogen detection techniques.

“This grant allows the Cal Poly Strawberry Center to play a central and critical role in a national project of great importance to the strawberry industry,” said Gerald Holmes, director of the Cal Poly center. “The long-term goal is to increase the sustainability of strawberry production across the U.S.”

The collaborative grant is funded by the USDA’s Specialty Crop Research Initiative.

“California continues to lead the world in agricultural innovations. These grants are good news, keeping our state’s strawberry farmers at the forefront of sustainable farming practices,” said Karen Ross, secretary for the California Department of Food and Agriculture, in a news release issued by the California Strawberry Commission announcing the grant.

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