In Queensland, Australia, strawberries (Fragaria ×ananassa Duchesne) are grown in open fields and rainfall events can damage fruit. Cultivars that are resistant to rain damage may reduce losses and lower risk for the growers. However, little is known about the genetic control of resistance and in a subtropical climate, unpredictable rainfall events hamper evaluation. Rain damage was evaluated on seedling and clonal trials of one breeding population comprising 645 seedling genotypes and 94 clones and on a second clonal population comprising 46 clones from an earlier crossing to make preliminary estimates of heritability. The incidence of field damage from rainfall and damage after laboratory soaking was evaluated to determine if this soaking method could be used to evaluate resistance to rain damage. Narrow-sense heritability of resistance to rain damage calculated for seedlings was low (0.21 ± 0.15) and not significantly different from zero; however, broad-sense heritability estimates were moderate in both seedlings (0.49 ± 0.16) and clones (0.45 ± 0.08) from the first population and similar in clones (0.56 ± 0.21) from the second population. Immersion of fruit in deionized water produced symptoms consistent with rain damage in the field. Lengthening the duration of soaking of ‘Festival’ fruit in deionized water exponentially increased the proportion of damage to fruit ranging in ripeness from immature to ripe during the first 6-h period of soaking. When eight genotypes were evaluated, the proportion of sound fruit after soaking in deionized water in the laboratory for up to 5 h was linearly related (r2 = 0.90) to the proportion of sound fruit in the field after 89 mm of rain. The proportion of sound fruit of the breeding genotype ‘2008-208’ and ‘Festival’ under soaking (0.67, 0.60) and field (0.52, 0.43) evaluations, respectively, is about the same and these genotypes may be useful sources of resistance to rain damage.
‘Rubygem’, a new short-day strawberry (Fragaria ×ananassa Duch.), produces high yields of moderately firm, attractive well-flavored fruit from late autumn through early spring in the strawberry-growing district in Southeast Queensland. ‘Rubygem’ is recommended for trial in areas with mild winter climates, especially where rainfall is unlikely and a well-flavored berry is required.