The “Florida 127” strawberry, developed by Vance Whitaker, assistant professor of strawberry breeding at UF’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center, could be the fruit consumers and growers have been waiting for.
This promising new variety increases flavor, while still allowing for early production and prolonged shelf life. According to Whitaker, fruit from Florida 127 last longer than the typical 10-14 day shelf life by one or two days, which can make a big difference considering the primary market for Florida strawberries is the Northeast.
“I think that’s a good advance. If you’re shipping all the way to Ontario, which many Florida strawberries do, they’ve spent several days on the road,” Whitaker said. “That (shelf life) is a really important aspect we’ve got to focus on.”
Florida 127 was planted on only 150 acres last season, but it is expected to expand to 2,000 acres for the 2-15-16 season.
Scientists from Shanghai Academy of Agricultural Sciences signed a key collaboration agreement with the University of Florida’s Horticultural Sciences Department. Both institutions have strong interests in breeding strawberries and peaches, and in their diseases and postharvest care. The agreement strengthens bi-national opportunities for both groups and facilitates the exchange of scientists and students for research experiences in foreign laboratories.
UF Horticultural Sciences professor Dr. Harry Klee and his team of researchers are making tremendous headway in understanding why tomatoes taste the way they do. More appropriately, they are understanding why tomatoes don’t taste the way we wish they did!
Recent results are being presented this week at the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science annual symposium in Boston, MA.
Flavors and aromas are produced by a complex cloud of volatile organic componds that interface with sensors equipped to detect them. Together this mix of hundreds of compounds, in conjunction with sugars, acids and other “taste” activators, provides a stimulation to the brain that defines the sensory experience. In other words, the chemicals present in tiny amounts in fruits activate receptors in the nose and throat that provide the brain with flavor and aroma information.
Plant breeders have sought high yields, great shelf life and disease resistance. Many of these gains have come at the expense of flavor. Now that scientists like Klee have a handle on how flavors are produced, it is now possible to define breeding targets to introduce key metabolites back into commercial tomatoes.
Dr. Linda Bartoshuk from the UF School of Dentistry has studied how flavors and aromas are sensed and what triggers a consumer’s “liking”. Together with Klee’s groundbreaking work, it is possible to narrow and prioritize which chemicals are most important and which ones should be re-introduced to tomato first.
This research leads to a better understanding of the flavor compounds produced by tomatoes and why we like them. The work promises to improve fresh tomatoes, but also processed tomato products.