The Watsonville-based California Strawberry Commission and California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo, plan to join forces to create a Strawberry Sustainability Research and Education Center focused on production.

The agreement between the two groups oficially kicks off Feb. 19 at the state capitol in Sacramento.

The partners already are in the process of determining the center’s objectives and setting priorities for research projects, said Carolyn O’Donnell, communications director for the strawberry commission.

Research may focus on runoff, soil, water quality or non-fumigant production, she said,

“It’s really about sustaining strawberry farming in the 21st century in California,” O’Donnell said. “It’s going to involve faculty and students in research that is going to have real-life applications.”

Besides the university’s department of agriculture and food and environmental sciences, the project will draw from colleges of engineering, science, mathematics, business, architecture, environmental design and even liberal arts, she said.

The center will operate in line with the university’s culture of “Learn by Doing,” O’Donnell said.

The commission has pledged a minimum of $1 million for the project over three years and will work with faculty and students at the center.

“We will be heavily engaged because it is a partnership,” O’Donnell said.

Some of the research projects may be in strawberry growers’ fields, she said.

“This is really looking for new ideas and fresh ways to solve the issues that are in front of California strawberry growers,” she said.

This project is expected to start this summer.

Scheduled speakers for the Feb. 19 event are Mark Murai, commission president; Jeffrey Armstrong, president, Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo; Victor Ramirez, strawberry commission board chairman; Karen Ross, California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary; and Matt Rodriquez, secretary, California Environmental Protection Agency.