The UF/IFAS strawberry breeding program employs traditional cross-pollination techniques and field selection using a strategy called recurrent selection, where new seedlings are rapidly evaluated and the best are used as parents for the next generation. Growers are interested in varieties that are resistant to multiple diseases, provide early and consistent yield, and have plants with long stems to make harvesting easier. Marketers and wholesalers want uniformly shaped fruit of sufficient size with attractive color. Consumers also value these traits but especially prize flavor - a trait receiving increased attention in the breeding program because recent research is uncovering how certain volatile natural compounds affect the perception of flavor.
‘Florida Radiance’ was released in 2008 and replaced ‘Strawberry Festival’ as the leading strawberry cultivar in Florida by 2012. Known as ‘Florida Fortuna’ outside of the United States, it has expanded internationally as well. In 2017, it comprised approximately 55 percent of the Spanish strawberry industry. Sweet Sensation® brand ‘Florida127’ (released in 2013) combines a sweet flavor and fruity aroma with excellent fruit size and shelf life. It accounted for 15 percent of the Florida industry in 2016.
Future UF/IFAS strawberry breeding program efforts will continue to enhance earliness, color, shape, size, yield, and flavor, as well as resistance to root and crown diseases.