New strawberry variety will extend local season and compete with imports

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Strawberry lovers are getting a new type of egg-sized berry to sweeten their summers, a development 20 years in the making that might give Canadian growers a fresh advantage in an increasingly competitive market as well.
Valley Sunset - named because it blooms late in the season - was developed in Nova Scotia's Annapolis Valley and will be available to growers next spring.
The fruit breeder who created Valley Sunset said it could extend the local season by a week - a substantial boost when you consider that strawberries are typically only available for four weeks in the summer.
The extra week could increase the income from strawberry sales in Canada by 15 per cent, said Andrew Jamieson, who developed the plant at the Atlantic Food and Horticulture Research Centre in Kentville, N.S.
Agriculture Canada estimates that the strawberry industry brings in $10 million annually for growers in Atlantic Canada and $60 million across the country.
The new variety was developed to thrive in the Canadian climate and Jamieson said it can be grown across the country and in the eastern United States.
Jamieson has seen a shift in the berry market over the past 10 years and wanted to develop a berry that would help prolong Canadian growing seasons.
Local growers must wait for their berries to ripen in late spring and have to compete with imported berries from Florida, California and Mexico that are sold in Canadian grocery stores year-round.
"It used to be that, particularly in more rural areas, there was a distinct strawberry season," said Jamieson. "All the people kind of waited for that and then bought a lot of strawberries and went to U-picks and consumed a lot of strawberries during strawberry season."
Jamieson said 85 per cent of berries used to be sold at farms where customers would pick their own fruit and pay by the box or carton. Now that number is closer to 20 per cent and many urban Canadians might not notice the start of the local strawberry season at all.
"You just waited with baited breath for the berries coming in June, so exciting. It was a short season and so exciting to have this local berry for a short period," said Donna Crawford of Horticulture Nova Scotia.
"It's not as special (now) because you can get berries any time. If you want strawberries to put on your strawberry shortcake you can just go and get California berries. They're not very good but .. they're there are they're red and they mush up, and you put enough sugar on them, you think you've got strawberries."
Valley Sunset took 20 years to develop and involved crossing plants from Canada, Britain, Belgium and the United States.
Three breeding cycles and two years of regional testing resulted in a strawberry that is well-adapted to Canada.

Organizations: Horticulture Research Centre

Geographic location: California, Atlantic Canada, United States Nova Scotia Annapolis Valley Kentville Florida Mexico Britain Belgium

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