The primary strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.) cultivar currently grown in Florida is ‘Strawberry Festival’ (Chandler et al., 2000b), which occupies ≈50% of Florida acreage and is grown in mild winter climates around the world. It has become a favorite of growers because of its steady yield of firm fruit with a low percentage of cull fruit, moderate resistance to multiple pathogens, and long shelf life. However, during the second half of the main production period (starting in late February in west central Florida), its average fruit weight decreases, sometimes to unacceptable levels. A recently released cultivar, Florida Radiance (Chandler et al., 2009), occupied ≈15% of Florida acreage during the 2010–2011 season. Its yield pattern complements that of ‘Strawberry Festival’ because it produces higher yields early in the season (late November to early December) and again in early February. It also maintains larger fruit size than ‘Strawberry Festival’ throughout the season. Weaknesses of ‘Florida Radiance’ include susceptibility to crown rot disease caused by Phytophthora cactorum (Lebert & Cohn) J. Schröt and suboptimal nursery growth characteristics, including weak petioles, which are easily damaged during nursery handling.
There is a need for a cultivar that has the steady yield, durable plant characteristics, and flavor attributes of ‘Strawberry Festival’ but that also maintains large fruit size and strong yields late in the season. Winterstar™ (‘FL 05-107’) strawberry (U.S. Patent Pending) has demonstrated these characteristics in experimental plots at the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) (Balm, FL), at the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA) headquarters in Dover, FL, and in trials on several commercial farms in west central Florida and southwest Spain.
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