U.S.: new strawberry variety tastier, hardier than Florida staple

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U.S.: new strawberry variety tastier, hardier than Florida staple

A new University of Florida (UF) strawberry has beaten the state's flagship variety in taste panel tests, and with planting around the corner it is set for commercial production in November. Winterstar 1 - FL 05-107 PictureCropped - Jose Jon Garcia Allen

Breeder Vance Whitaker told www.freshfruitportal.com the Winterstar variety is a cross between Florida Fortuna - known as Florida Radiance in the United States - and Earlybright.

"Fortuna is of course the leading variety in Florida now and it has quite a few acres in southern California, as well as a lot of market share in southern Spain and other Mediterranean countries," Whitaker said.

"Earlybright was a smaller impact variety but it did find a place for a while in Argentina, because it had a bit of a stronger plant habit which was desirable for that market."

With a range of interacting factors in determining taste such as sugars, acids and aroma, Whitaker said the resulting variety can either be of equal or slightly better flavor than Radiance, combined early production characteristics with a more "grower-friendly" robust plant.

"It just has a slightly different fruit quality. It has a little bit more of a lower acid, mild sweet flavor, and it's also a very firm strawberry; firmer than Radiance.

"Last year was the first commercial year and there were only enough plants for about 300-400 acres, just as a general estimate.

"We expect it to have a slight increase while growers are trying to figure out where it might fit in their portfolio. Some growers have gone fairly large with it and report they’ll be growing 25-30% of their acreage, and for others it hasn’t caught on with yet."

He added that competition with Mexico during Florida's winter months had intensified, particularly over the last two years, prompting a need for better eating quality.

"Florida growers can’t compete on price with Mexico, just with the economic dynamics as we all understand, so they’re going to have to distinguish themselves based on quality," he said.

"There are obviously a lot of things that can be done to increase quality, and the most important thing I can do as a breeder to contribute to that is to ensure there’s a good standard for the eating quality of the varieties we provide."

The strawberry will not be labeled by variety, but a University of Florida release said consumers should look for the Fresh From Florida logo or some other indication that they were grown somewhere in Florida, such as in Plant City, the state’s strawberry capital.

Whitaker said the Florida Strawberry Growers Association was licensing the variety locally, while Ekland Marketing was handling licensing overseas.

Photo: Jose Jon Garcia Allen



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