The University of Florida has released Winterstar, a new strawberry variety that features some of the best traits of the state's two most popular cultivars—Strawberry Festival and Florida Radiance.
But Winterstar also has some unique attributes that set it apart from earlier releases, says Vance Whitaker, who with fellow university strawberry breeder Craig Chandler, jointly released the variety.
Formerly tested as FL 05-107, Winterstar combines the early yield of Radiance with some of the plant durability and post-harvest traits of Festival.
Unlike earlier varieties, the external color of Winterstar fruit doesn’t dark as growing temperatures warm. Instead, Winterstar fruit maintains a bright red color, Whitaker says.
In addition, the fruit of Winterstar grown during the 2009-10 season had an average sugar/acid ratio of 13.1-14.5—significantly higher than current cultivars.
As a result, the fruit have a distinctively sweet flavor.
Plants also are more compact, which may allow for higher planting densities.
The university has about 80,000 plants in large-scale field trials with about 20 growers this season.
With similar trials in the past, Whitaker says you'll hear a mix of negative and positive comments from growers. But the trial with Winterstar has been different.
“The thing that’s been surprising with this one is [the comments] have been uniformly positive,” he says. “The growers are pretty happy with the fruit quality and the attributes of the plant.”
Winterstar should be commercially available by fall 2012 through standard nursery channels, Whitaker says.