The Newest Member of Plant City’s Wonderful Winterland Crop
The Winterstar is the newest variety of strawberry that the University of Florida Gulf Coast Research and Education has developed. It has been in development since 2005. Winterstar was released in 2011, just in time for strawberry season in Plant City.
This cultivar was developed by crossing the Florida Radiance variety, the female parent with the Earlibrite variety, the male parent. Field plots of the Winterstar have been grown and tested since 2005 at the GCRED in Balm, Florida and at the Florida Strawberry Growers Association in Dover, Florida.
Vance M. Whitaker, Assistant Professor of Strawberry Breeding and Genetics of the University of Florida Horticultural Sciences at Gulf Coast Research and Education Center explains, “The new variety is in large scale trials on approximately 20 growers’ fields this winter and the feedback has been very positive.”
“The University of Florida applied for patent last year on their newest strawberry variety, Winterstar“, adds Ted Campbell, Executive Director of the Florida Strawberry Growers Association.
The Winterstar can be developed from bare-root transplants. These may be obtained from certified nurseries.
“The most noticeable attributes of the fruit are its uniform shape, bright color, and sweet low-acid flavor,” notes Whitaker.
The Winterstar is compressed and upright. Fourteen to 15 inch spacing apart is recommended due to the compression of the plant.
The reasonably long pedicels make it easier to harvest. It has been developed to produce in the winter during shorter daylight hours, thus a short-day plant.
It has been observed through field studies the Winterstar need only moderate fertilizing. Thus is much like the Florida Radiance variety.
Through its genetic development, Winterstar is less susceptible to crown and root rots known as phytophthora cactorum, although it can still contract the disease and most assuredly has to be observed.
The distribution heartiness and firmness of the Winterstar lie somewhere between the Strawberry Festival and the Florida Radiance.
For nursery growers the foliage of the Winterstar is heartier and less susceptible to breakage. The production of the runners are similar to that of the female parent.
Campbell continues, “It has not yet been licensed for commercial production.
“Everyone seems pleased with it's early harvest characteristics and it's sweeter, less acidic flavor, reported Campbell.
Whitaker states, “I’m excited about the excellent fruit quality of Winterstar™ and the advantage that it will give to Florida growers as they market their product. It will be in full commercial production in the fall of 2012.”