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OSCII Activity C.22

Toward organic production of strawberry through exploitation of its natural genetic ability to absorb silicon

Activity summary

This project addresses specifically several priorities linked to improving germplasm and production management systems to reduce diseases and pests, and at the same time reduce the use of synthetic chemicals. Strawberry is a fruit susceptible to a number of diseases (e.g. powdery mildew, Botrytis, anthracnose, etc.) during production.

Previous research has shown that the absorption of silicon (Si) by strawberry can provide protection against a number of biotic stresses and will often be as effective as fungicides. However, our exploitation of this biological approach (Si supplied as silicate and the use of the product Siliforce that is approved as organic) has been hampered both by our limited understanding of the ability of strawberry plants to absorb Si and by an efficient delivery system. For instance, previous research provided convincing proof that Si amendments were effective at controlling diseases in strawberries, but at the same time, they showed that some cultivars responded better than others, without being able to find a scientific explanation. The latest progress in genomics have provided unprecedented opportunities to characterize the genetic components allowing plants to absorb Si. It is now known that Si absorption in plants is controlled by Si-specific transporters localized in the roots. The sequences of such transporters are now well defined, and it is possible to characterize plant species for their ability to absorb Si on the basis of the presence of Si transporters. At the same time, production systems in strawberry have improved dramatically, whereby a precise measure of the nutritive components, including soluble Si, entering into the system can be monitored.

These recent advances create the opportunity to investigate with precision the ability of different strawberry cultivars to absorb Si and to determine with accuracy the benefits that strawberry plants can draw from it. We can thus optimize both the genotypic and phenotypic responses of strawberry plants to Si and integrate this approach into a cultural system. The use of Si in biological agricultural systems is gaining in popularity worldwide as research is changing its application from an empirical to a scientific approach, and this is the main challenge that this project aims to address.

Activity researchers

Name Affiliation
Richard Bélanger, Activity Leader Université Laval
Martine Dorais Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
Horticulture Research and Development Centre

Contributing partners

Materials and Results to Date

  • Silicon, a valuable fungicide: Fraises de l’Île d’Orléans