The newest University of Florida-bred strawberry could become another option for growers looking to diversify their crop.
Vance Whitaker, strawberry breeder at the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, said the Florida Medallion is performing well and expects a substantial increase acreage next year.
“If it continues to perform well, we’ll see where it finds its niche with the current varieties; whether it’s a third of the industry, what proportion is really hard to say at this point,” Whitaker said. “It’s safe to say it’s performing well. We’ll definitely have a place for a couple of hundred acres of it next year.”
More Varieties the Better
The more strawberry varieties available for Florida producers the better. In just a couple of years, the industry moved from a Radiance-dominant industry to a Brilliance-dominant industry. Growers are quick to switch allegiances, depending on how successful the variety is on a commercial scale. Medallion provides producers another tool in the toolbox.
“It can move very fast. They need the best tools. If they find one that’s better than what they have, they’re going to replace it,” Whitaker said. “Ideally, they’d like to have at least three, hopefully four varieties that complement each other. Right now, we have two good varieties in Sensation and Brilliance that complement each other really well. I think the Medallion will slide in and hopefully become a good third option for them. They really want to diversify and spread their risks.”
Finding the perfect strawberry is not an exact science. But there are qualities that make certain varieties stand out above the rest. Whitaker explains that early yield and flavor are the two most prominent traits farmers are looking to capitalize on.
“Early yield is obvious because of the timing of the market. It’s just critical. Then the flavor, it’s becoming more and more important in a competitive market,” Whitaker said. “Consumer’s expectations are going up for what their berries should taste like. I think that growers recognize that quality is the way that they can compete in a highly competitive international situation. If they can provide fresher, better tasting strawberries than Mexico can, then they can continue to compete well.
“People have to want to eat them, but you also have to have them at the right time.”