The leading strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa) cultivar grown in Florida is currently ‘Florida Radiance’ (Chandler et al., 2009; U.S. Patent PP20,363) which was commercialized in 2009 and by the 2015–16 season, accounted for ≈70% of the acreage in west-central Florida. This cultivar is preferred for its early and total yields, its uniformly shaped and attractive fruit, and its open plant architecture and long pedicels which allow efficient harvesting. Sweet Sensation® ‘Florida127’ (Whitaker et al., 2015; hereafter referred to as ‘Florida127’; U.S. Patent PP25,574) is currently the second leading cultivar with ≈20% of acreage in 2016–17. This cultivar is preferred for its combination of high yields, large fruit size, excellent eating quality, and long shelf life. However, neither of these current commercial standards are well adapted for early transplanting dates in west-central Florida. High temperatures during transplanting tend to reduce early yields of ‘Florida Radiance’ and cause elongated fruit, which may be unmarketable, and ‘Florida127’ often becomes too vegetative when exposed to high temperatures. The planting window in west-central Florida has shifted earlier in recent years in an attempt to produce higher yields in late November and December when market prices are highest (Wu et al., 2015).
There is currently a need for additional cultivars with uniformly shaped fruit and harvesting efficiency similar to ‘Florida Radiance’ and flavor characteristics similar to ‘Florida127’. There is also a need for cultivars that are adapted to early planting, between 25 Sept. and 1 Oct., when environmental conditions in west-central Florida are hot and unfavorable for flower initiation and ideal fruit shape.
‘Florida Beauty’ strawberry is the product of a collaborative breeding effort between the University of Florida and the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. It has demonstrated adaptation to early planting, maintaining excellent fruit quality, and a yield distribution that complements current commercial standards. Experimental trials have been conducted under the direction of the University of Florida on the research plots of the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) (Balm, FL), at the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA) headquarters in Dover, FL, and on several farms in west-central Florida and Southern Spain.
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