University of California strawberry breeders have released two short-day varieties—Benecia and Mojave—designed to let growers capitalize on early markets.

Benecia, formerly known as C225, yields about the same as Ventana, but the fruit has much better appearance scores and slightly better size and firmness.

“Everybody is raving about the flavor of this one,” says Doug Shaw, a University of California, Davis, strawberry breeder. Mojave, formerly known as C227, may not have quite the overall yield of Benecia, but its cull rate is significantly lower, says Kirk Larson, a UC Extension pomologist based at the South Coast Research and Extension Center in Irvine.

The fruit are attractive but slightly smaller than Benecia’s, and fruit firmness is not as high, either.

“Firmness scores aren’t generally what we want in UC varieties, but they’re probably still better than proprietary varieties,” Larson says.

Fruit size remains uniform throughout the season, unlike some varieties where the fruit becomes smaller as the plant runs out of energy near season’s end.

Both varieties withstood winter rainstorms as well as the San Andreas variety.

For more details, visit UC’s new strawberry Web site www.plantsciences.usdavis.edu.