Three new strawberry varieties to watch for this season

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Media Relations
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

It has been more than ten years of progress, but the small fruit research team from the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Kentville Research and Development Centre in Nova Scotia have released their newest strawberry varieties (cultivars) called AAC Kate, AAC Audrey and AAC Evelyn (AAC represents "Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada" or Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in English).

The release of these three new varieties makes it a total of 20 different varieties of strawberry that have been bred at AAFC in Kentville. Of course, breeding new varieties doesn't happen overnight; it takes many years of research, testing and trials before new varieties are chosen to become commercial cultivars.

The science behind finding the ideal varieties

The small fruit team at Kentville Research and Development Centre in 2017. Photographed left to right: Ken Gough, Chad Cairns, Dr. Beatrice Amyotte, Pansy Rand, Dylan Troop, Amanda Charlton and Dr. Andrew Jamieson

Dr. Andrew Jamieson, a retired AAFC research scientist from the Kentville Research and Development Centre, first began the hunt for new varieties in 2012. He began his research by selecting strawberry plants that had favourable attributes including having excellent growth, beautiful fruit and delicious flavour. Using a method called "controlled crossing", he chose two plants that had positive characteristics and dusted the pollen from one plant onto another. Once the strawberries grew, he picked them all and collected the tiny seeds. Each of the seeds grew into a unique new plant for Dr. Jamieson to study.

When Dr. Jamieson retired in 2017, he left his research to Dr. Beatrice Amyotte, a new research scientist to AAFC at the time. Before he retired, he named the new cultivars after his three granddaughters: Kate, Audrey and Evelyn. Dr. Amyotte picked up right where Dr. Jamieson left off and continued to test the three varieties in the field. This part of the process takes the longest because it needs to be repeated over multiple years in multiple locations. Dr. Amyotte and her team looked at the new plants from 2017 to 2022 to confirm if they had consistent growth, yield and fruit quality.

Dr. Amyotte launched the Canadian Berry Trial Network (CBTN) in 2018. The CBTN is an industry-led horticulture project that involves testing new varieties of strawberry, raspberry, and blueberry in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia. Dr. Amyotte was able to use the CBTN to test the strawberry varieties to ensure they could grow in different strawberry regions across Canada.

After navigating the bumps and hurdles that come with research, including dealing with bad weather one season and the challenge of getting into the field during the pandemic, Dr. Amyotte was able to reach the final stage of releasing these three varieties in 2022. After consulting Canadian nursery growers to see if there was still an interest to have these fruits become commercial cultivars and receiving a resounding "yes", she and her team requested Plant Breeder's Rights through the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Having Plant Breeder's Rights means that the three varieties can now be grown and sold by Canadian nurseries. In Canada, the two nurseries with licenses to grow AAC Audrey, AAC Evelyn and AAC Kate are C.O. Keddy Nursery in Nova Scotia and Lareault Nursery in Quebec.

To the average Canadian, you may not be able to distinguish the new varieties but each have their own best features. AAC Audrey tends to be the most beautiful with its perfectly conical glossy red berries. AAC Evelyn has the largest fruits while AAC Kate is the most firm. One thing is for sure, all three varieties have great fruit quality and are very delicious."

- Dr. Beatrice Amyotte, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

The sweet taste of next varieties

After more than a decade of research getting three new varieties to market, the hunt for more berry varieties continues. Dr. Amyotte and her team continue breeding berries and looking for improvements. She and her team will continue to study berries that ripen in the later part of the harvest season and have improved resistance to diseases.

"Strawberries are special fruit to work with. They have a wonderful quality that everyone loves. They are the first berry of the summer making them very important to growers and consumers. It is a privilege to work with them and help identify new varieties for Canadians to enjoy."

- Dr. Beatrice Amyotte, Research Scientist, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

So as Canadians head to their local u-pick markets, remember to ask about the new varieties; AAC Kate, AAC Audrey and AAC Evelyn!

Photo gallery

New strawberry variety called AAC Kate, was named after Dr. Jamieson's granddaughter.

New strawberry variety called AAC Audrey was named after Dr. Jamieson's granddaughter.

New strawberry variety called AAC Evelyn was named after Dr. Jamie son's granddaughter.

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