Origin and distribution
The genus Fragaria belongs to the family Rosaceae and found in woods and grasslands in Europe, western Asia, North America, and temperate areas in Chile. It is diploid species, found in the higher altitudes of the Himalayas ranging from 1500-3000 m. F. nilgerrensis is a wild species of strawberry, a native of India and found in the Nilgiris, Khasi hills of Assam, Western Ghats, at an altitude of 1500 m MSL. It also occurs in western China. F. daltoniana is distributed in eastern Himalayas and Sikkim at an altitude ranging from 2500-3000 m. Himalayan Strawberry (F. nubicola) is found in the Himalayas, from Pakistan to Burma, at altitudes between 1800-3800 m MSL.
The plant and fruit characters differ from species to species. F. vesca is an erect perennial
herb with thin, light green, coarsely serrate, dentate leaves. Flowers are relatively small, in clusters, white, fruit ovoid or sub-globose, red with very prominent achenes. Fruit size is larger than other wild species of Fragaria. Fruits are sweet, aromatic and delicious. F.nilgerrensis is a robust creeping perennial with runners clothed with long spreading hairs, leaves trifoliate and round leaflets.
Flowers are white, fruits sub-globose, white or pale pink with sub-acid flavour, achenes reddish brown, minute imbedded in fleshy receptacles, and somewhat banana like taste. F.nubicola is called as Himalayan strawberry; it can be distinguished by its 1 cm round red berry and entire sepals. It is a low-growing, hairy perennial herb with trifoliate leaves, and long runners rooting at the nodes. Leaves are long-stalked, with three leaflets, ovate, 2.5-4 cm long, profoundly and coarsely toothed. White flowers, 1.5-2.5 cm across, have five broadly obovate petals.
The five sepals alternate with the petals. Flowering takes place in April and continues until June. Fruits are globose or sub-globose, partially red, lie along the ground, sub-acidic and aromatic. F.daltoniana is a small red-stemmed plant with slender runners, leaflets hairy or glabrous with few teeth and distinctly stalked. Flowers are white and solitary. Fruits are narrow oblong 2.5 cm long and 1.3 cm wide, scarlet with little or no flavour. Nutritional value and uses: The fresh strawberry fruit is a source of vitamins and minerals. The taste of the fruit is attributed to the presence of volatile esters which varies among the species and cultivars.
The fruits of F. vesca are large and eaten.They are aromatic and delicious. The roots are ground and used as a coffee substitute in Kashmir. The leaves of F. vesca are mildly astringent, and diuretic and an infusion of leaves are given in diarrhoea and urinary problem. The antioxidant property of F. vesca has reported higher than other
Most of the strawberry species require a cold temperate climate. Sandy to loamy soils with good drainage and pH of 5-7 are considered best for strawberries. It is propagated through runners. One plant produces 3-5 runners in wild species and 7-10 in cultivated types under proper management. These are either allowed to root into the soil and then dug up and planted in the field at a distance of 0.45×0.45 m in matted rows or 0.3-0.5 m apart rows with a spacing of 1.0 m between rows.
Planting is usually done in July-August. Irrigation should be done to avoid stress period. Fertilizer is applied in autumn at the rate of 20-25 tons well rotten FYM and 20 kg N after the onset of growth but before flowering every year. Foliar spray of 0.5% N, 0.2% P and 0.5% K should be done between August and February months at an interval of 2 months.
To protect fruits from contact with soil, the surface of the ground should be cleaned and mulched. The fruits are harvested when half to a third fourth of skin develop red colour and still hard. Delaying in fruit picking usually increases the proportion of overripe and rotten berries. Thus, several picking is required at an interval of 25-30 days. The fruits should be harvested in small tray or baskets. They should be kept in a shady place to avoid excessive heat in the open field. Fruits can be stored in cold storage up to 10 days.
Genetic Resources: A total of 92 accessions of strawberry comprised various species are being maintained in the field gene bank at NBPGR, Regional Station, Bhowali, Uttarakhand. They have been characterised and evaluated over the years and a catalogue has also been published. Variability for morphological characters and fruit characters shows significant variation for plant type (spreading to semi erect), fruit colour (light red to dark red), fruit weight and total soluble solids.
A set of 38 cultivated strawberry varieties is also being maintained at IARI Regional Station, Amartara, Shimla. We have introduced three strawberry accessions (EC569143, EC571812 and EC571813) from the USA which are under characterisation. An original agreement of F. vesca (IC555321) has recently collected from Arunachal Pradesh.
- National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources Regional Station Phagli, Shimla