Florida’s strawberry industry is abuzz as studies show strong potential for the Florida 127, a relatively new strawberry variety marketed under the “Sensation” brand.
“Florida 127 is a promising new cultivar for west-central Florida growers due to its early yield, robust plant habit, and excellent fruit size and eating quality,” according to the Institute of Food & Agricultural Services of the University of Florida.
According to the Florida Strawberry Growers Association, the IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center has patented nine Florida strawberry varieties since 1992.They are grown and marketed under the “Sweet Charlie,” “Rosa Linda,” “Earlibrite,” “Strawberry Festival,” “Carmine, “Winter Dawn, “Florida Elyana, “Florida Radiance” and “Winterstar” names. Although developed for optimum performance in Florida’s winter climate, the association said the varieties are marketed globally.
“We are so fortunate to have the University of Florida land grant university,” said Kenneth Parker, executive director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
IFAS operations are spearheaded by Vance Whitaker, who Parker called “a tremendous asset to this industry.” He added that Whitaker’s predecessor, professor emeritus Craig Chandler, paved the way for the important research currently being conducted.
Florida 127, first crossed in 2009, reached marketplace introduction quickly. A limited volume was released in 2013.
“This is the second year it has been in commercial production,” Parker said. “We have to make sure it meets a high flavor profile.”
Another advantage of the Florida 127 is its ability to maintain high quality during and after shipment. “Consumers want sweeter berries with a longer shelf life,” he said.
Initial feedback about the strawberry variety has been positive. In addition to its sweet taste, Parker said the variety is large and the red color doesn’t darken over time. Whether eaten fresh or used for cooking applications, Parker said Florida 127 is a berry of choice.
Looking at production, Parker said limited acreage currently under cultivation for Florida 127 could bloom to as much as 2,500 acres next season. To illustrate the impact of the variety on the industry, Parker said Florida strawberry growers had approximately 11,000 acres in production for all varieties this season.
The commercialization process for new varieties gives Florida producers a competitive edge.
“Florida growers usually have a three-year competitive advantage [before the variety is generally released],” he said.
UF sells strawberry plants around the world, and Parker said the Middle East and Mexico are two top destinations for these patented plants.