By Vance M. Whitaker
Two new strawberry selections have been approved for release by the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and are in the commercialization process. Trade names have not yet been finalized but should be chosen in the next six months. For both, larger-scale testing will be conducted this fall, and commercial quantities will be available to Florida growers for the 2021–22 season.
The first release is an early short-day variety with excellent fruit shape and quality. It has slightly lower November and December yields than Florida Brilliance but has had high January yields. It has excellent flavor, with taste panels ranking it equal to or even better than Sweet Sensation® Florida127, depending on the harvest date. It also has high Brix through the season, similar to Sweet Sensation® Florida127. The push for better flavor is an important pursuit for the UF/IFAS strawberry breeding program, so the team is very excited about the sensory qualities of this new release.
The second release is a white-fruited strawberry. White-fruited varieties have been popular in Japan for some time, but this is expected to be the first such variety on the market in the United States. It has white internal and external color, with a pink blush on the sun-side and red achenes. The appearance of the pink blush and the achenes turning from green to red are the visual cues signaling that the fruit is ripe and ready to eat. The fruit are a little bit smaller than the other current varieties and are more similar in size to the fruit of Festival. The yield of this variety is about 75 percent of the current varieties grown in Florida, which are primarily Florida Brilliance and Sweet Sensation® Florida127.
It is important to mention that new strawberry variety releases from UF/IFAS are exclusive to Florida growers for the first three years, but trialing can be conducted during this period with permission from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
Regarding current varieties, Sweet Sensation® Florida127 (released in 2013) is fully available throughout the United States, while Florida Brilliance (released in 2017) is still exclusive to Florida for one more season. However, with permission, Florida Brilliance can be trialed outside of Florida in 2020 and will be fully available in 2021.
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