MSU Releases New ‘Day Neutral’ Strawberry Varieties
James Hancock, professor emeritus, Michigan State University, is internationally acclaimed for developing many successful blueberry varieties. Several years ago, he turned his green thumb to strawberries, developing the first “day-neutral” strawberry cultivars released outside of California in more than 30 years.
Day-neutral plants flower, regardless of the length of daylight they are exposed to. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development, the state produced 43,000 tons of fresh strawberries and 3,000 tons of processed strawberries in 2011.1 However, any variety of strawberry plant that can thrive during Michigan’s shorter spring and fall daylight hours has the potential to extend the growing season and bolster Michigan’s fruit industry.
Both Redstart and Wasatch, as the two strawberry cultivars are named, were tested in Mt. Vernon, Washington, and Benton Harbor, Michigan. Both compared favorably to the most widely planted day-neutrals, Seascape and Albion. However, Redstart surpasses Seascape in yield, fruit size, vigor, and flavor, though it is paler in color. While Wasatch strawberries are not as firm and are smaller than Albion strawberries, the plant has higher yields, better fruit color, greater plant vigor, and similarly excellent flavor.
1 See https://www.michigan.gov/documents/mda/MDA_Crops_Brochure_low-resolution_324586_7.pdf for more crop statistics from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD)