Dr. Eamonn Kehoe, soft fruit specialist advisor with Teagasc, gives an update on the results from the recent nationwide strawberry variety trial
A new initiative took place on several soft fruit farms across Ireland this year. Developed by Teagasc, the strawberry variety trial aimed to grow and assess several new ‘June bearing’ varieties of strawberries on the farms selected. The industry is always on the lookout for new strawberry varieties that can complement the existing ones already being grown. Some may even be able to fill the existing gaps in production throughout the long season.
Different growing structures were used, including walk-in tunnels and Spanish tunnels. The main aim of the trial was to see how the different strawberry varieties perform in these structures, and in different parts of the country. All of the varieties were grown in either peat or coco peat (coir) substrates. The trial was run in association with the Italian soft fruit plant propagators Mazzoni and Salvi-Vivai (also known as CIV).
With the help of Teagasc, the growers recorded the fruit weights and the fruit quality from the individual trials. There were both early and mid-season varieties grown. The early varieties included ‘Joly’, ‘Annely’, and ‘CIV 725’; with ‘Lycia’ and ‘Sibilla’ being the mid-season croppers. All of the varieties performed well in both the walk-in and Spanish tunnels used. Each variety cropped for about 6-7 weeks from late May to mid-July.
‘Lycia’ was the best performing variety overall. It produced a yield of 340g of fruit per plant. Overall the fruit quality was very good, but in appearance, it was very long and cylindrical. The plant was very vigorous and this helped to support and protect the fruit from the strong sunshine.
‘CIV 725’ had a slightly lower yield at 300g per plant. The fruit shape and the plant habit were quite similar to ‘Lycia’. Like ‘Lycia’ the plant was also very vigorous and needed extra leaf supports.
‘Joly’ gave the highest yield at just over 400g per plant. It is marketed as a ‘premium’ variety by the breeders. The fruit was a lovely glossy colour and the shape was much more conical. Unfortunately, the final product was a little bit soft and was prone to splitting. Fine-tuning the irrigation supply may be a solution to the fruit splitting issue.
The earliest variety to crop was ‘Annely’, though the yield was disappointing at 300g per plant. In addition to this, the fruit quality was poor and, like ‘Joly’, was very prone to splitting. The plant vigour was also poor. This was detrimental to fruit production as the plant was not able to produce or support a heavy crop load. ‘Annely’ had also been exposed to more direct sunshine, making it prone to over-ripening.
‘Sibilla’ is the last variety to mention. It produced 370g of fruit per plant. This variety is aimed at the processing and wholesale trade. Its fruit was conical and had a good flavour, but the colour lacked the glossy sheen of other examples, appearing duller and matte-like upon inspection.
None of the varieties showed increased susceptibility to any of the usual plant diseases, including ‘crown rot’ or ‘powdery mildew’, for example.
If fruit growers do intend to grow ‘Lycia’ or ‘CIV 725’, in particular, extra plant leaf supports are recommended due to the high vigour and the abundance of foliage produced by these plants. This is straightforward to accomplish once the supports are implemented close to the time of planting.
The trial proved very popular among the growers selected to participate. One grower who took part in the trials, Pat Clarke from Clarke’s Fresh Fruit in Stamullen, Co. Meath said, “I was delighted to have taken part in the strawberry variety trial and am looking forward to taking part in more trials in the future.” Always in search of the philosopher’s stone of strawberries, all of the growers were excited to start trialling more new varieties for 2022. ✽
Dr. Eamonn Kehoe is a soft fruit adviser and research scientist with Teagasc. For more information contact firstname.lastname@example.org