Queensland’s winter strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.) industry would benefit by having an early ripening, more profitable cultivar to replace current cultivars. ‘Strawberry Festival’ (Chandler et al., 2000) and, more recently, ‘Florida Radiance’ (Chandler et al., 2009) were introduced to Queensland and rapidly became major early-season cultivars with fruit and plant attributes desirable to growers. ‘Florida Radiance’ is marketed in Australia as ‘Florida Fortuna’. The average fruit size of ‘Strawberry Festival’ is less than ‘Florida Radiance’, but the latter is more difficult to establish in the field. Numerous plant losses sometimes occur, especially when demand for early supply of runners results in premature digging and lower quality runners.
The commercial desirability of strawberry cultivars for producers, distributors, retailers, and consumers depends on many traits. Supply volumes influence market prices and profitability to the producer. Producer profitability is a key need for a stable production system. Herrington et al., (2012) analyzed the production and marketing system in Queensland in relation to the effect of changes in plant traits on the notional profitability of production. When this information was combined with genetic parameters, they found (Herrington et al., 2014) the key drivers of greater profitability compared with the current profitability in subtropical Southeast Queensland were having a greater proportion of yield early in the season and having a larger fruit size. In the development of ‘Red Rhapsody’ (Fig. 1), we focused on selecting for these traits while maintaining levels of other traits at or above commercially acceptable threshold levels.
‘Red Rhapsody’ strawberry has produced high early-season (May–August) yields of firm, attractive fruit at the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) Research Facility in Nambour and in several commercial fields in the Caboolture district in Southeast Queensland. It is recommended for trial in areas with mild winter climates and where the market requires robust, well-flavored fruit, but can accept fruit that are slightly darker red than cultivars such as ‘Florida Radiance’.
The name ‘Red Rhapsody’ was chosen, first, because of its consumer appeal as identified in a survey of consumers (Herrington, unpublished data). In addition, the name was chosen to emphasize the balance of plant traits with levels that were harmonized to enhance the profitability of producers while addressing the requirements of other market cycle segments.
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