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Driscoll's New Berry Varieties at Baldor Bite

Elizabeth Higgins, Business Management Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

May 11, 2018

BlushOne of the new varieties we tried was a "blush" strawberry that was light pink and white. It was delicious! We learned that the white trait in strawberries is a
single gene and the wild strawberries of South America were white and North America were pink. Most varieties of strawberries are red because the native wild
strawberries of Europe were red.

On May 2nd I had an opportunity to participate in a discussion with chefs, buyers and berry breeders from Driscoll's berries at Baldor BITE in NYC.  Rick Harrison, VP of Global Variety Development at Driscoll's, and his team of Strawberry, Raspberry, Blueberry and Blackberry Breeders discussed their process for developing new berry varieties and considerations for creating the berry of the future. They led a discussion on the berry characteristics important to chefs, brokers and retailers and we tasted new Driscoll berry varieties that are under consideration for commercialization.

The breeders discussed the need to balance flavor, appearance, productivity and shelf-life in creating a new berry.  In order to have berries year-round in the US, Driscolls produces berries on farms in South America, Mexico, across the US and in Canada (they also grow berries in Europe).  Their plant breeding facilities are located in each different growing region.  The breeders need to balance many traits, and shelf-life is very important for their business.  If shelf life could be less important, that would allow more berries to be considered that are stronger in other traits like flavor.  To reduce the distance traveled and time in transit, Driscolls is considering growing more berries in the northeastern US, hoping that they would have more options to select berries for flavor as they would be closer to their markets.   The discussion with the buyers was interesting because several retail buyers reiterated how important shelf life was to them but a food broker, who sold to restaurants, said that he really appreciated being able to get more flavorful varieties.  It was clear that Driscolls was considering 2 different markets in its breeding program - the traditional grocery store market and a more targeted market that would pay a premium for flavor and uniqueness.

Driscolls is constantly looking to improve its berries and, depending on the type of berry, a variety may only be in active production for 3 years before it is replaced with a better performing variety.  One other interesting fact was that in Europe, Driscolls identifies the berry by variety on the package, but in the US it does not.  I discussed this with some of the breeders and this was, in part, because in US markets they change varieties often during the growing season, as the growing location changes and there was a perception that constantly changing variety names would confuse consumers.  Several of us noted that the apple industry takes the opposite approach.  They are considering, for their targeted, premium markets creating "limited release" variety-identified varieties like the blush strawberry in the sidebar.

What is the life expectancy of a Driscolls berry variety?

 

Approximate # of varieties they grow at a time

Life expectancy of a variety before it is replaced with a new variety

Strawberries

12-15

3.5 years

Blueberries

2-3

5-10 years

Blackberries and Raspberries

5-10

3 years




Lessons that can be applied:


Always keep looking for better, varieties.  Figure out what your weak links are in your production system and try to find a variety that is better.  Are your yields too low, do your berries not hold up well for your markets, how is the flavor or texture? 


Consider your market when you select your variety.  The flavor/shelf life balance was a clear area of trade-off in different markets.  Yield vs flavor could be another tradeoff.  Can you get a higher price for more perishable, flavorful berries, or are your customers more price and appearance/condition of the berry focused?


Consider your pricing and marketing.  Do you have a limited season berry that is unusually good and could command a premium price?  Are your customers aware of it?

 


This article is from the April 11, 2018 CCE ENYCHP Berry News, Click Here for the FULL NEWSLETTER



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Upcoming Events

Ag Manager Webinar Series: Ag Tax Topics - Sales Tax and Property Tax Issues for Ag in NYS

August 27, 2019
12:30 - 12:50pm

Join Liz Higgins from the CCE ENYCHP every other Tuesday at 12:30pm throughout the summer as she discusses pertinent business topics for busy farm managers.
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Willsboro Farm High Tunnel Twilight Meeting

August 27, 2019
5:00pm - 7:00pm
Willsboro, NY

Join vegetable specialists Elisabeth Hodgdon, Jud Reid, and farm manager Mike Davis for a high tunnel and field tour at Cornell's Willsboro Research Farm, where they will share research results for the following projects: 
  • Striped cucumber beetle management suing netting and row cover
  • Varietal differences in cucumber susceptibility to striped cucumber beetle
  • Ground cherry and goldenberry production in field and high tunnel environments
  • Overwintered high tunnel spinach nitrogen fertility 

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Announcements

Resources from CCE ENYCHP!

We are developing new ways to connect with the CCE ENYCHP team this year! We have a Youtube page located at this link. Check out videos on Table Grape Production, Pest Updates and the 20 Minute Ag Manager - in 4 Minutes series

We have a Facebook Page here as well as an Instagram page. We keep these places updated with current projects, events, and other interesting articles and deadlines.

There are also text alerts available. Fruit and vegetable farmers in 17 Eastern NY counties can now receive real time alerts on high risk disease and pest outbreaks texted directly to their cell phone. The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture program, which is supported by local Cornell Cooperative Extension associations, will now offer text alerts to those that enroll in our program in 2019. 

The text alerts will be reserved for important crop alerts that could impact management decisions immediately. For instance, if there were an outbreak of Late Blight in the area, this would be transmitted to vegetable growers.

Farmers can choose the crop for which they wish to receive updates. Additionally they can request that Ag Business Alerts be sent to them. These alerts might include due dates for crop insurance deadlines, market opportunities etc.

If you have questions, please contact enychp@cornell.edu


Podcasts

Biweekly Vegetable News Podcast - Episode 9 - 08/21/19

August 21, 2019
The August 21st, 2019 edition of the Eastern New York Vegetable News covers the following topics:

Changes to Worker Housing Regulations in the Farmworker Fair Labor Practices Act (1:25)
Managing Alternaria Leaf Spot and Head Rot on Broccoli (4:25)
Gauging Winter Squash Maturity for Harvest (10:05)
Insects in Hemp, especially European Corn Borers (18:33)
Guidance on the Dropped Covered Produce Provision of the Food Safety Modernization Act (22:53)
Cucurbit Downy Mildew Management Update (27:02)
Report from the BioControl Field Day and Weed Management Recommendations (31:07)
Day Neutral Strawberries (40:33)

Here are links to additional resources mentioned in the episode:

Current Housing Regulations for Seasonal and Migrant Farmworkers
(On January 1, 2020, these will now apply to farms housing any number of seasonal and migrant farmworkers)

Public Health Law, section 225, NYCRR Title 10 Health, Part 15, Migrant Housing: https://www.health.ny.gov/regulations/nycrr/title_10/part_15/

Managing Alternaria Leaf Spot and Head Rot in Broccoli

Sue Scheufele “Can Alternaria Leaf Spot Be Managed Organically?” http://www.hort.cornell.edu/expo/proceedings/2013/Cole%20Crops/Cole%20Crops%20Scheufele%20Alternaria.pdf

Christy Hoepting “Control of Alternaria head rot in broccoli featuring exciting results from 2018 on‐farm fungicide trial” http://www.hort.cornell.edu/expo/pdf/20190115-all-day-hoepting.pdf

Dropped Covered Produce:
FDA Factsheet on Dropped Covered Produce: https://www.fda.gov/media/129568/download

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