Principal horticulturist Mark Herrington is developing strawberry varieties for the future.
Principal horticulturist Mark Herrington is developing strawberry varieties for the future. John Mccutcheon

Strawberries get a working over

FANCY a peach-flavoured strawberry? How about bubblegum?

These unique combinations were uncovered as part of an ongoing research and development project being undertaken on the Sunshine Coast by the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.

Horticulturist Mark Herrington said the program, funded through Horticulture Australia, the State Government and the strawberry industry, was centred on creating varieties of strawberries that will serve the needs of producers and consumers long into the future.

Mr Herrington said one of the aims of cross-pollinating known strawberry varieties was to produce a scenario where shoppers would have choices in strawberries similar to picking Granny Smith or Pink Lady apples.

"One of the wonderful things about breeding is that you see things that you haven't seen before," he said.

Some of the more unusual creations to date include the Sugarbaby variety, which tastes like a peach, and the as yet unnamed strawberry, which has a taste "reminiscent of bubblegum".

Mr Herrington said while research into these varieties was "still in its infancy", it had the potential to be marketed to children to promote higher fruit consumption.

But it takes between five to seven years of rigorous testing before a particular variety is ready for commercial production.

The Rubygem strawberry is the most recent success story, making a major impact in the European markets for its enhanced flavour and glossy red colour.

The Queensland strawberry industry is now worth around $145 million a year, up from $12 million in 1995.

"This growth is due in part to the success of the strawberry breeding program, which has given us the Rubygem and other lines, and extension efforts with industry," Mr Herrington said.



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