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US (FL): New University of Florida strawberry certifiably sweet

Growers in Florida’s $300 million-a-year strawberry industry now have proof that the latest UF/IFAS-bred variety lasts longer on the shelf and tastes sweeter than two UF/IFAS cultivars, making it more attractive to faraway markets.

“These two attributes together make for a clear step up in eating quality for the consumer,” said Vance Whitaker, an associate professor of horticultural sciences and strawberry breeder at the UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm, Florida.

In a newly published study, scientists studied traits for Sweet Sensation ‘Florida127,’ which was released commercially in the 2014-2015 growing season. Researchers compared them to those of ‘Florida Radiance’ and ‘Strawberry Festival,’ two other UF/IFAS-bred varieties.

Gary Wishnatzki, president and CEO of Wish Farms in Plant City, is growing a lot more Sweet Sensation ‘Florida127’ this year than last year because of its flavor, Whitaker said.

To test attributes of Sweet Sensation ‘Florida 127,’ scientists received samples of all three varieties produced and packaged by growers on several different dates over two growing seasons, Whitaker said. This allowed researchers to look at quality traits over a range of conditions and environments in the Florida strawberry industry.

On each harvest date, the fruit was placed in cold storage conditions that simulated the commercial cold chain conditions — on trucks, in the store and more. Scientists measured quality attributes before and during the cold storage period to see how they fluctuated over time. They wanted to know the quality from the time the strawberries are picked to the time they are eaten by the consumer. Scientists tested color, decay, shriveling, firmness, taste and aroma for the three varieties.

In addition to a longer shelf life and better taste, Sweet Sensation ‘Florida127’ stood out as more attractive and flavorful, the study said.

The study is published in the journal Scientia Horticulturae.

Source: University of Florida
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