California Giant boosts Oxnard strawberry acreage

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California Giant boosts Oxnard strawberry acreage

California Giant Berry Farms has highlighted its optimism about a "more normal winter weather pattern" in the Golden State, while a move to new strawberry varieties is set to bolster the company's offering. frutilla-shutterstock_1593730-edit

In a release, California Giant said the pattern had provided rainfall, good chill and excellent plant health for the spring and summer harvest season on strawberries.

"This marks the second year in a row that rain has returned to the state and snow pack is almost at a normal range," the group said.

The rainfall does however bring challenges with it when it comes to volume forecasts in the first quarter, "especially as trading partners gear up for Valentine’s Day and build demand for stem berries".

"The sales team California Giant is already responding to requests and is optimistic about availability since they are sourcing product from California, Florida and Mexico," the group clarified. 

At the annual California Giant sales meeting in December, field personnel shared positive news about acreage statistics citing consistent increases for all berry types in 2017 as well as new varieties on tap.

"For the first time in several years, the company has increased acreage in Oxnard due to positive test plot results and now sufficient availability of two new short day varieties," the company said.

"For many years they have been making due with day neutral varieties better suited for northern districts, but this year the company is excited about the Petaluma and Fronteras varieties bringing new life to their Oxnard program."

Both varieties were released by UC plant breeders Doug Shaw and Kirk Larsen in 2014, and as short day cultivars they produce the bulk of their fruit in the shorter days of spring and fall.

Fronteras is described as a large and vigorous plant, more so than another short day 'Ventana' which is more common in the industry.

In comparison, Petuma is a moderately vigorous plant, with fruit that is a bit darker and larger than 'Ventana', with great flavor and good storage characteristics as well.

The cultivar, like Fronteras, has also shown good resistance to Fusarium wilt, and greater resistance to Verticillium wilt and phytophthora. 

California Giant vice president of marketing Cindy Jewell could not reveal the company's exact acreage for the crop, but highlighted strawberry acreage for 2017 was up 15%, while blueberry acreage was up by about 25%.

"Fresh blueberries definitely have seen some growing pains on the supply-demand side. The consumer demand is definitely on the rise and continues to increase every year due to the nutritional value and versatility of this berry type," she said.

"However, consumers are still more price sensitive which can affect movement. At the same time, there are challenges when dealing with imported product into the USA both in hard costs and lag time.

"Ultimately, we hope to be able to build a winter market in Mexico in the future to help eliminate the long lead time we experience now at this time of the year."

The group also provides year-round blackberries and has an emerging raspberry program for the fall of 2017.

"We will be looking at the some new [raspberry] varieties and hope to see positive flavor and yield as a result so we can expand our acreage and availability," she said.

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