February 11, 2021

By Diane Nelson

Red, ripe strawberries are the hallmark of spring in California. Two new varieties from the Public Strawberry Breeding Program at the University of California, Davis, will provide consumers with big, flavorful strawberries throughout fall and winter, too.

“These cultivars were developed to provide high-quality fruit from late summer through the holidays,” said Professor Steve Knapp, director of the UC Davis Strawberry Breeding Program.

The new varieties — UCD Finn and UCD Mojo — are “extreme day neutral,” which means they were bred for summer planting, especially in coastal climates from Santa Maria south. They were developed to replace Portola, the only other UC variety that is planted in the summer and harvested in the fall and winter. Portola is popular with farmers for its high yield, but some consumers say the variety lacks flavor.

“Finn and Mojo are sweeter than Portola without any drop-off in yield because so much of the fruit is large and marketable throughout the harvest season,” explained Glenn Cole, breeder and field manager with the UC Davis Strawberry Breeding Program.

Since its inception in the 1930s, the UC Davis Strawberry Breeding Program has developed more than 60 patented varieties, turned strawberries into a year-round crop and increased strawberry yield from about 6 tons per acre in the 1950s to more than 30 tons per acre today. The United States is the world’s largest producer of strawberries, and almost 90 percent of them are grown in California. About 60 percent of the state’s strawberry fields are planted with varieties developed at UC Davis.

Counting Finn and Mojo, UC Davis has released seven new varieties in the last 18 months, each with its own farming niche to help growers manage disease, control costs and produce plenty of large, sweet berries using fewer resources. The breeders have more varieties in the pipeline, all of which will offer genetic resistance to Fusarium wilt, a soil-borne pathogen that can destroy entire fields of strawberries.

Farmers can buy Finn and Mojo at nurseries starting this spring. Also, more details on all of the UC Davis strawberry varieties are available at the UC Davis Office of Research site.

Read the original story on the UC Davis News website.