Picking the right varieties is a key decision for strawberry growers. The problem is, while there are many varieties to choose from, only a small portion of them will meet the needs of an individual farm in terms of hardiness, yield, disease resistance, berry size, flavor, and appearance.
In northern climates with cold winter temperatures, hardiness is a priority. Disease resistance is a priority on farms that have grown berries for many years with limited land for rotation, or on farms that have heavy, wetter soils. For many pick-your own farms, flavor is at the top of the list. Wholesale growers need firm fruit. And of course, most growers want to have berries for as long a possible over the relatively short ‘strawberry season’.
Summer-bearing varieties of strawberry produce fruit in June, and into July as you go north. Their flower buds are largely initiated the year before, when days are short in the fall. Day-neutral varieties are not as widely grown, in part because they take a lot of management to keep them flowering and fruiting and throughout the growing season, and in part because demand tends to drop off after the ‘normal’ strawberry season.
Ultimately, you have to grow a berry variety on your own farm to
see if it has the blend of characteristics that you, and your customers,
want. It makes sense to test varieties on a small scale before making large
The following variety descriptions are taken from an article by Dr. Courtney Weber, Cornell University. Note that local climate, soil type and production practices can influence the traits described, so performance from farm to farm may differ.
Annapolis (Nova Scotia) is a large fruited early season
variety. The fruit is pale red and soft with good flavor. Suitable for
local retail. It yields well. It is susceptible to powdery mildew and
Earliglow (USDA, MD) is still considered the best tasting berry
around. Primary berries are large and attractive and are suitable for
retail or wholesale. Berry weight drops off quickly after the primary
berries and yields are relatively low. It is susceptible to powdery
mildew after harvest.
Evangeline (Nova Scotia) fruit is long conical in shape with a pronounced neck and generally small with low yields. The interior is pale, and it is susceptible to red stele. The fruiting laterals are stiff and upright which keeps the fruit off the ground and clean.
Honeoye (Cornell University, NY) has reigned as the yield king
for many years and produces an abundance of large, attractive, firm,
berries that are suitable for all markets. Closer to an early
mid-season, the look of this berry sells it, but taste is the major
drawback as it can be tart and can develop disagreeable aftertastes
when over ripe or in heavy soils. It is susceptible to red stele
disease but is manageable.
Itasca (MNUS 138, University of Minnesota) is a cross between Seneca and Allstar. It fruits early to early-midseason in New York. The fruit is larger than that of Annapolis, conic to blunt wedge shaped. Fruit flesh is orange-red with a average to good flavor. Itasca is resistant to five races of red stele, and its foliage is highly resistant to mildew.
Northeaster (USDA, MD) was billed as a replacement for
Earliglow and out performs it in all ways except flavor. Yield is
higher and fruit size and attractiveness are equal to Earliglow but the
flavor is unusual. The grape Kool-Aid like aftertaste can be a turn off
to many customers.
Sable (Nova Scotia) is slightly earlier than Earliglow and is equal or better in flavor. Unfortunately it lacks fruit size and firmness. This variety is only suitable for direct retail and upick operations. Frost damage can be a problem because the flowers open very early.
Brunswick (Nova Scotia) has fruit weight and yield similar to Honeoye. However, it has a squat, round shape and tend to be dark and bruise easily. The flavor is good but can be tart when under ripe.
Cavendish (Nova Scotia)is a high yielding, high quality berry in a good year. However, high temperatures during ripening can cause uneven ripening that can be a real problem.
Canoga (Cornell University, NY) was reintroduced in 2005 for plasticulture and ribbon row plantings where drip irrigation is practiced. The berries are very large, firm, bright red in color, with a shiny appearance and good flavor. Plants are vigorous and form branch crowns well in plasticulture. Plants do not runner as freely as most varieties.
Chandler (University of California) is a standard southern
variety grown for wholesale markets in plasticulture. High yields have
been experienced throughout the Carolinas and California. Not well
suited for planting north of the mid-Atlantic region due to lack of
winter hardiness. Chandler is also susceptible to anthracnose disease.
Darselect (France) is a large fruited, high yielding variety.
The berries are attractive and bright red with a long conical shape.
The flavor is very good. However, it tends to be soft. It is
susceptible to powdery mildew, which can be a problem in areas with
Elsanta (Netherlands) is one of the most widely planted
varieties in northern Europe. It is Junebearing with high yield
potential. Fruit is firm and aromatic. It is susceptible to red stele,
anthracnose, and Verticillium wilt.
Jewel (Cornell University, NY) continues to be the favorite in
this season. The high quality berries are large and attractive with
good flavor. Yields are moderate. On a good site, it's hard to beat. It
is susceptible to red stele and can have vigor problems in poor or cold
Kent (Nova Scotia) produces medium sized berries with very good
yield, especially in new plantings. Hot weather can cause skin
toughness to deteriorated. It is very susceptible to leaf spot and
scorch and to angular leaf spot. It is very sensitive to Sinbar
herbicide. It does not do well in hot weather.
L'Amour (Cornell University, NY) is an early mid-season type with excellent fruit quality. Berries are bright red and firm but not hard, with excellent eating quality and flavor. Fruit is long round conical with a fancy calyx, which makes them very attractive. No significant disease or insect problems have been noted to date.
Mesabi (University of Minnesota) is a very high yielding berry
with large berries and good flavor, but does not store well. It is
resistant to red stele and tolerant to leaf diseases and powdery mildew.
Raritan (Rutgers University, NJ) is productive with the fine
taste of an heirloom strawberry. Raritan is very flavorful. Its small,
deep-red berries are easy to pick. Plants are susceptible to a wide
range of diseases.
Sapphire (University of Guelph, Ontario) is a late mid season
variety with bright red and large berries. It is reported to be
tolerant of the herbicide Sinbar (terbacil).
Allstar (USDA, MD) is good yielding, high quality variety with
good flavor. Unfortunately, the color is pale to orangish and is
unacceptable to an uninformed consumer.
Cabot (Nova Scotia) produces impressive berries. Average fruit weight is larger than any variety currently available. Primary berries often top 40-50 g. The color can be pale throughout the berry and primary berries are often irregular in shape. Yields are very high. It is resistant to red stele but is susceptible to virus infection and cyclamen mites.
Clancy (Cornell University, NY) was developed through a joint
venture with the USDA breeding program in Beltsville, MD. Its parents
were resistant to red stele root rot. The fruit is a round conical
shaped with darker red color and good flavor. The flesh is very firm
with good texture and eating quality. The fruiting laterals are strong
and stiff, keeping the fruit off the ground until they reach full size.
No significant disease or insect problems have been noted to date.
Eros (Italy) is a light colored late season variety with large
but somewhat squat berries that are not particularly attractive. Yields
are adequate in good stands but it does not renovate exceptionally
well. It is susceptible to cyclamen mites.
Ovation (USDA, MD) is extremely late. It doesn't flower until
after most others are past their peak bloom. Fruit quality is average
but there is little to compare it to in its season. Yields are moderate.
Seneca (Cornell University, NY) is probably the firmest variety
available for the east. The fruit is large, bright red and attractive
but the flavor is only average. It doe not runner heavily and can be
adapted to plasticulture.
Serenity (University of Guelph, Ontario) is a late season
variety that is also tolerant to Sinbar (terbacil). The fruit is large
and bright red. The skin tends to be soft. It reported to be moderately
resistant to scorch and mildew.
Winona (University of Minnesota) has very large berries and
average yields but can not compete with Jewel for fruit appearance. It
has good vigor though and might be useful where Jewel does poorly.
Everest (Great Britain) is a fairly new variety that has large,
firm, bright red berries. It does not runner well and is only suited
for plasticulture. Over wintering can be a problem with this one.
Seascape (University of California) is a day neutral that is
seeing some success in the east. The fruit is large and very
attractive. It is firm and good quality. It does not runner and is only
suitedfor plasticulture. Over wintering can be a problem with this one.
Tribute and Tristar (USDA, MD) have been the standard day neutral varieties for the northeast for the last 20 years. They are disease resistant, vigorous, and runner enough for matted row production. Both are relatively small fruited and low yielding but off-season fruit may pay off. Of the two, Tribute has better size and Tristar has better flavor.
New Varieties -these have not been tested in Geneva NY but may be of interest.
Saint-Pierre (Quebec) has large conic shaped fruit that are
pale red to orangish, much like Allstar. Fruit firmness and flavor are
reported to be very good.
Bish (North Carolina State University) is large and firm. It is
resistant to anthracnose. It is a June-bearing variety developed for
use in plasticulture systems.
Avalon (Rutgers University, NJ) is an early season berry with large fruit size. The fruit is rounder than Earliglow and somewhat dark. Flavor and firmness are very good. Plants are large and vigorous.For additional strawberry variety information, see:
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