THE EVOLUTION of the strawberry from a wild to a cultivated plant can be illustrated in many ways, each contributing details toward the completion of the whole picture. Contrasts can be made between the size of fruit borne by wild and cultivated varieties, or the extent of the crop in 1850, 1900, and 1960. The breeding of better varieties can be traced back from present forms to their ancestors of much earlier times. What is known of character inheritance can be presented, along with the aims and methods of breeders who succeeded in obtaining better varieties. All these ways can help to explain how today's varieties originated, and each may suggest possible future improvements.
The objectives of this book can be understood best perhaps by the fact that it is designed to be what I would like to have available for my use, if I were starting a breeding program now; as such it is meant to serve others, just as Dr. S. W. Fletcher's book of nearly 50 years ago served me. By providing a helpful background, it is designed to follow the examples of Lambertye, Goeschke, and Millet, 75 to 100 years ago, and of Duchesne 200 years ago, all of whom offered the results of their study to aid the advance of others, and to add to the general body of knowledge. This book is designed to acquaint the reader with the strawberry, its origin and appearance, the structure of its fruit and plant, where and how it was developed and by whose hands, who is working with it now, and what can be expected of it. Will it continue as a major fruit? What are its weaknesses and its strong points? Is it worthwhile? How can we best take advantage of the present ease of interchange of ideas and germ plasm?
As answer to some of these questions, the book covers the early history of the strawberry in a review by Miss Vivian Lee, wherein we are made observers of the strawberry's slow evolution prior to the time when explorers of the New World searched for novel plants, and its dramatic progress, following the discovery of two new species, to the point where it became an important crop. In addition, the botany and early varieties of the strawberry are reviewed, in order that one may understand just how it progressed, in terms of intrinsic value, to its present status as a commercial crop, and may upon such understanding initiate a search for new qualities, and through them, further improvements. Serving a similar function are the chapters on morphology and physiology of the strawberry, its cytology, and the present sources of superior qualities. A considerable part of the book is assigned to present varieties, those who bred them, and the work being conducted at the experiment stations in the United States and other countries.
My association with various people in the preparation of this book has been pleasurable and of great help; with Miss Lee, who searched out the strawberry's early history; with Dr. Reed, an enthusiastic botanist of cultivated plants; with Dr. Bringhurst, who has led the research in California, where strawberry production competes for labor in a highly industrialized region; and with Dr. Hondelmann, who has written of the work of the Sengana Institute in Hamburg, Germany, where he is actively engaged in breeding, and from which successful varieties already have been introduced. And, of course, with those scores of breeders who are presently active who have been most generous in describing their work and in furnishing data and illustrations. I hope that I have presented their viewpoints correctly.
Thanks are due especially to Mrs. Neumann, my secretary for many years in the U.S.D.A., for her diligent typing of the manuscript; to Mr. William Reiss for his patience in obtaining many of the photographs; to my associates in the berry breeding work of the U.S.D.A., who have discussed many of the problems of breeding with me. Also I must thank Mr. John Meader, who helped to organize the manuscript. I wish to thank my wife, Grace, especially for permitting the use of the dining room table for many months as an extension of my desk. Finally, I am deeply grateful to Mr. Henry Wallace for his penetrating questions and stimulating suggestions.
October, 1965 GEORGE M. DARROW