The five new strawberry varieties released by plant breeders at the University of California, Davis, recently may offer consumers new choices, but they have to meet the discriminating preferences of the state’s strawberry growers first.
While consumers probably choose on the basis of color, size, taste and texture, growers include several other qualifications before they plant any of the 25 to 30 varieties of strawberries available to them. The weather, soil, water required, size, yield and growth characteristics in their locations are among the most critical.
Top of the list of features the breeders sought in the five latest varieties was disease resistance. From strawberry plants that bloom in the early spring to those that prefer warmer days, their contact with the soil as they ripen makes them vulnerable, especially to soil borne maladies. Inherent resistance is far more preferable than overcoming disease with sprays or other exterior applications.
The time of year that strawberries ripen is a characteristic that can be regulated to some degree by breeding, and further modified by the location where they are grown and by weather characteristics. The plant breeders do what they can to provide early ripening in some of the varieties growers choose from. Berries that can ripen in time for Christmas holiday sales are a premium.