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Kentucky Ag News

UKAg research reveals promising new strawberry variety

 

University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment

 

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky strawberry lovers may be able to buy locally grown berries as early as May, thanks to a new variety that is showing great potential for commercial growers. University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment horticulture specialists regularly perform variety trials on a number of crops to see what works best for the state’s growers, climate and consumer tastes.

“Strawberry variety performance is quite variable across the United States and varieties need to be evaluated under local conditions,” said John Strang, UKAg horticulture specialist. “Flavorfest is a strawberry variety we’ve been testing with some success.”

Shawn Wright, UKAg horticulture specialist, included Flavorfest for the past three years in plasticulture strawberry variety trials at the UK Horticulture Research Farm in Lexington. With funding from a Kentucky Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant, Wright was able to see how the variety performed compared to popular varieties such as Chandler and Camerosa.

“The Flavorfest variety was developed at the USDA-ARS station in Beltsville, Maryland,” Wright said. “In last year’s trial, it produced 14,346 pounds to the acre which was statistically the same as our currently recommended variety of Chandler at 14,445 pounds to the acre.”

Chandler and Camerosa are the most common varieties in Kentucky plasticulture systems. Camerosa had higher yields, but Wright said it is a firmer berry that is more suited for growers who are trying to ship or hold berries longer. Flavorfest also has decent disease and pest resistance.

“I like the flavor of Flavorfest much more than Chandler,” he said. “I can’t speak to its shipping characteristics, because I didn’t try to hold the berries after harvest. It did peak in production about one week after Chandler, though the previous year it was almost identical.”

Flavorfest strawberries grown in plasticulture systems are ready to harvest in early May, while those from the matted row growing system aren’t ready until late May or June.

“Growers can demand a higher price for a locally produced berry that is ready to go earlier than June, when most people are used to seeing an abundance of berries at the market,” Wright said. “And that’s good, because it does cost a bit more to grow in an annual growing system like plasticuture. We would have to grow it for a few more years to see where it really falls in the calendar, but for someone who wants a traditional tasting strawberry that is very attractive and has good size, this is it.”

Strang currently has Flavorfest in a matted row variety trial—the more traditional growing method—and will harvest it this spring.