Rochelle Hunter, Shakyra Meredith and Shontay Silver, senior agriculture students at Gympie State High School with the valuable 'phenomenal' strawberry seedlings the school has been gifted.
Rochelle Hunter, Shakyra Meredith and Shontay Silver, senior agriculture students at Gympie State High School with the valuable 'phenomenal' strawberry seedlings the school has been gifted. Donna Jones

Gympie could save Queensland - again

GYMPIE is not only the town that saved Queensland,it has also gone a long way to establishing the state's strawberry industry, which today is worth about $160 million to the economy.

Heritage strawberry breed "phenomenal" first appeared in a newspaper publication in 1908, developed by George Flay, one of the apprentice gardeners at the historic Chatsworth Gardens in Derbyshire.

He later went on to settle on his own property near Gympie.

Mr Flay developed the breed in Gympie and, according to historian Anita Barnes, this breed was the basis of the Queensland strawberry industry for nearly half of last century.

It is being used today in disease resistance research in Queensland and Florida.

Phenomenal only has about 50 unaltered plants left in the country and five of those reside in Gympie.

That's thanks to strawberry plant breeder and researcher Dr Jodi Neal, principal horticulturist Dr Mark Herrington and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries regional director of Southeast Queensland Jason Keating, who along with Ms Barnes visited Gympie State High School on Thursday.

The guests each took turns to present a talk to the GSHS agriculture students explaining their roles.

Ms Barnes spoke at length about Gympie's link to the phenomenal breed and Dr Neal talked about her role in developing commercial plants and how she is using phenomenal in testing because of its tolerance to some key strawberry diseases.