Dr. Leonard Githinji, of White Hall has been selected to take part in a nation-wide initiative to improve the production methods of strawberries locally and regionally.

Dr. Leonard Githinji, of White Hall, has been selected to take part in a nation-wide initiative to improve the production methods of strawberries locally and regionally.

A researcher at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, Githinji is among approximately 16 other researchers from across the country selected to receive funding for the initiative through grants made possible possible by a $3 million donation made to the Division of Agriculture by the Walmart Foundation. In all there were 56 proposals from agricultural research and extension personnel at land-grant public universities in 29 states.

“This grant project seeks to move the science and technology for alternative strawberry production systems and areas away from laboratories and experiment farms into the producers’ fields," said Curt Rom, professor of horticulture in the Division of Agriculture. "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.”

Githinji will now have 12 months to complete his project. “Establishing and Expanding Sustainable Strawberry Production in Eastern Arkansas and Surrounding Areas” consists of extensive outreach and education, including hands-on exercises and demonstrations on sustainable strawberry production, across the Arkansas Delta. Activities will include five sustainable strawberry production workshops as well as the creation of three demonstration sites with high tunnels, row covers, plastic mulch and drip irrigation systems. “I’m very excited about this project that will focus on establishing and expanding sustainable strawberry production for limited resource farmers in the Delta region of Arkansas," said Githinji. "The project is very timely and will allow the state of Arkansas to play a real role in national strawberry production.”

Other researchers selected to take part in the initiative were: Brian Whipker, North Carolina State University; Chieri Kubota, University of Arizona; Ganti Murthy, Oregon State University; Ruijun Qin, University of California; Ellen Paparozzi, University of Nebraska-Lincoln; Suping Zhou, Tennessee State University; Cary Rivard, Kansas State University; Jeffrey Brecht, University of Florida; Oleg Daugovish, University of California Cooperative Extension; Thomas Gordon, University of California at Davis; Emily Hoover, University of Minnesota; Elena Garcia, University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service; Peter Nitzsche, Rutgers Cooperative Extension; Jeremy Pattison North Carolina State University; Carlene Chase, University of Florida; and Russell Wallace, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

According to the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture, strawberries rank as the fifth most popular consumed fresh fruit in the U.S. which produces 27 percent of the world supply. California and Florida account for 98 percent of the nation’s strawberry production