( Photo courtesy Duong Chung )

The new Florida brilliance strawberry variety, which debuted last season, has proven to be a winner.

The berry’s first season of commercial production “went very, very well,” said Vance Whitaker, strawberry breeder for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, Wimauma, Fla.

The Florida brilliance is so popular that it’s estimated to account for 55% of Florida’s strawberry acreage this season, Whitaker said.

The state’s growers have exclusive rights to the variety for three years before it will become available to growers in California and Mexico.

Florida brilliance essentially is replacing the Florida radiance variety, Whitaker said.

The berry’s most important trait is that it is early yielding, enabling growers to get into the fall/winter market as soon as possible.

“It’s the earliest variety we have,” he said, adding that Florida brilliance offers better shape, flavor, firmness and fruit quality than other kinds of strawberries.

A variety formally called sweet sensation, also developed by the University of Florida, is the other major strawberry in the state, accounting for 25% to 30% of production, Whitaker said.

Sweet sensation does not stand up to rain as well as Florida brilliance does and has some “production issues,” Whitaker said. But it has “fantastic flavor” and maintains a high brix rating late in the season, which is important to processors.

The university is monitoring two other high-flavor selections being tested this year for possible future release, Whitaker said.

Astin Strawberry Exchange LLC, Plant City, Fla., is a company that now primarily plants the Florida brilliance variety, said sales representative Shawn Pollard.

“We’ve shifted away from the radiance,” he said.

Florida brilliance seems to be a “fairly fast-maturing, high-quality berry,” he said.

During its first season, Florida brilliance maintained its quality well into the season — into March — and the plants continued to produce medium-size berries, he said.

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