01 Apr 2022

Nova Siri Genetics inaugurates the new R&D site in Policoro


The new Strawberry and Berries Research and Testing Centre of Nova Siri Genetics in Policoro (MT) was inaugurated on 31 March 2022Carmela Suriano (Business Development Manager EMEA) and NSG co-founder Josè Miguel Arias, a pioneer in strawberry breeding, cut the ribbon.

In this exclusive reportage Italian Berry gathers the impressions of the visit to this avant-garde structure of excellence at the service of Italian and world agriculture.

Nova Siri Genetics - Research and Experimentation Centre - Policoro MT

Partners from Italy, Spain, the Mediterranean basin and various non-European countries, such as Mexico and Australia, met to visit the laboratory, the technological growth greenhouse and the experimental fields.

Founded in 2005, Nova Siri Genetics has already patented nine strawberry varieties in the European Union and other countries, plus two varieties in the patenting phase. The horizon of Nova Siri Genetics is originally the Mediterranean basin, with two main hubs of development in Italy and Spain and the gradual involvement of the Maghreb area.

Nova Siri Genetics - Research and Experimentation Centre - Policoro MT

International development has recently led to the conclusion of important agreements in Australia and Mexico for the distribution of the Italian company's patented strawberries.

While research and experimentation, laboratory, greenhouse and breeding activities are concentrated in Italy, Nova Siri Genetics has a strong collaboration with a leading Spanish nursery, Viveros California, for the distribution of its varieties in the Iberian Peninsula. There are also numerous commercial organisations and cooperatives in Italy and Spain that now produce thousands of tonnes of Nova Siri Genetics strawberries.

Carmela Suriano and Nicola Tufaro

This strategy is also being reflected in the creation of the NSG Network, which brings together the research, production and marketing stages in a single entity that aims to understand market development in order to produce varieties that meet market demands. 

Until a few years ago, the Metaponto area, despite having an established tradition in strawberry production, had not developed its own variety programmes and therefore its development was dependent on non-native varieties for which royalties had to be paid to non-Italian breeders. With the creation of Nova Siri Genetics in 2005, this flow was reversed: now the varieties that are developed and patented in Italy are exported to Spain where they have found increasing success among local growers.

According to Carmela Suriano, 'the main strategic lines that are guiding NSG in the development of new varieties are first of all hardiness, which is necessary to produce in an agronomic context that is increasingly focused on sustainability and therefore tends to reduce the use of pesticides.

In addition, Nova Siri Genetics focuses on strawberry varieties suitable for Mediterranean, generally mild climates; varieties that reach the final patent stage must also have good commercial and organoleptic (taste and sweetness) characteristics."

The entire process takes place in a modern laboratory equipped with the most advanced technical equipment, which on the one hand allows the crosses that initiate the process of researching new selections and on the other hand guarantees that the already patented material is maintained in conditions of perfect health and genetic stability, which are necessary to be able to propagate guaranteed material every year.


"All processes take place in extremely controlled environments, where all environmental and sanitary conditions are monitored by sensors and equipment to keep the material in the best condition," said manager Giovanna Lionetti .

Nova Siri Genetics was founded in 2005 by José Miguel Arias and a young Italian student, who was interested in breeding techniques in order to complete a degree thesis on the subject. The young Nicola Tufaro immediately took a liking to José Miguel's teachings, and the collaboration between the two led to the creation of a joint venture with the aim of freeing Italian strawberry farming from the US and Spanish breeders on whom it was completely dependent. José Miguel is now 80 years old and after retiring... twice, he is still active and passionate about breeding.

José Miguel Airas at Nova Siri Genetics - Research and Experimentation Centre - Policoro
Strawberry breeder José Miguel Arias inaugurated the new Nova Siri Genetics Centre

"The main characteristic of a breeder is to know the plants intimately, and this knowledge is built by creating a relationship with them. It is necessary to have the ability to evaluate every single plant individually: it is a quick process for a good breeder, but it is an activity that, if delegated to cold numerical analysis, risks losing sight of the final result; the strawberry in fact has extremely complex genetic characteristics, being an octoploid, that is, a DNA characterised by eight sets of chromosomes, while in man for example there are only two. So in order not to get lost among the infinite possible combinations of DNA, it is essential to have an overall view, and at the moment this is only available to a talented breeder who cannot be replaced by an algorithm.

The process from the first cross to the patenting of a variety takes, in the best cases, seven to eight years. In the first year, crosses are made in the laboratory and the material obtained is transferred to the breeding greenhouses where the first selection takes place.

In the second year, about 3000 selections are planted in the field, each with four plants; at this stage, a further selection is made that will reduce the selections for which the process will continue to a tenth.

The 300 plants obtained are in turn planted in the third year and each is represented by about ten plants on which more extensive evaluations are made; in the fourth year the thousands of selections are reduced to a few dozen, for each of which about one hundred plants are observed in the field.

The few selections left at the end of the fourth year are tested in the fifth year in field trials with producers in different areas and climatic regions in order to test them under more variable conditions.

Finally, after a further two to three years of field trials, the best selections are patented and distributed commercially.

As for berries at the moment, trials on blackberries and raspberries are on the horizon. "Nova Siri Genetics is at the stage of identifying the right parental plants to start making crosses and have a quality starting population; we are relying on free, wild, old plants: all material of European origin on which we are doing important work," said Nicola Tufaro, head of breeding at Nova Siri Genetics.

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