Florida Strawberry Festival’s Featured Fruit Comes From UF/IFAS Research (Morning Ag Clips)

Florida Strawberry Festival’s Featured Fruit Comes From UF/IFAS Research

When you hear the words “Plant City,” what comes to mind? Strawberries, probably. As thousands of people come here for the annual Florida Strawberry Festival in February, many will eat various types of the fruit. They may be surprised to learn that University of Florida scientists toil in nearby labs and fields to develop the best berries.

Those scientists work at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) in Balm, about 30 miles south of Plant City. In their research, UF/IFAS researchers seek genetic traits that make strawberries succulent and able to dodge diseases. In fact, six years ago, Vance Whitaker worked with other UF/IFAS researchers to pinpoint the compounds that give strawberries the unique flavor that’s so appealing to consumers.

“These varieties are constantly getting better,” said Whitaker, an associate professor of horticultural sciences and strawberry breeder at the GCREC, part of UF/IFAS. “They’re tasting better. So, they fill those needs. They’re lasting longer in the refrigerator, and they’re more consistently available throughout the season.”

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