Michigan State University professor Dr. James Hancock has developed the first day-neutral strawberry cultivars released outside of California in over 30 years. Dr. Hancock, a professor of agriculture and natural resources, won the MSU Technology Transfer Achievement Award in 2014 for his work in Northern Highbush blueberry cultivars. ‘Redstart’ and ‘Wasatch’, as the two strawberry cultivars are named, are intended for use in the Midwestern and Northeastern USA, Ontario and Quebec where day-neutral plants are often necessary due to a lesser level of exposure to sunlight.
‘Redstart’ was tested in Mt. Vernon, Washington and Benton Harbor, Michigan where is fruited for 11-13 weeks and 5-6 weeks consecutively. Though ‘Redstart’ is a weak day-neutral variety whose flowering performance may be temperature dependent, it compares favorably to the most widely planted day-neutrals ‘Seascape’ and ‘Albion’. ‘Redstart’ bests ‘Seascape’ in yield, fruit size, vigor and flavor though it is paler in color and only comparable in firmness. ‘Redstart’ and ‘Albion’ boast similar flavors, but the two differ in that ‘Redstart’ outperforms ‘Albion’ in yield, vigor and color while ‘Albion’ experiences larger fruit and slightly better firmness.
‘Wasatch’ performed as a strong day-neutral in field trials over three seasons, fruiting an average of 12 weeks in Mt. Vernon, Washington and 8 weeks at Benton Harbor, Michigan. Similarly to ‘Redstart’, ‘Wasatch’ compares favorably to ‘Seascape’ and ‘Albion’. It has a slightly paler internal color than ‘Seascape’ and similar firmness; however, it is superior in yield, vigor, fruit size and flavor. ‘Wasatch’ is not as firm and is smaller fruited than ‘Albion’, but it has higher yields, better fruit color, greater plant vigor and similarly excellent flavor.
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I think certainly there has been an uptick in entrepreneurship in the state, and I think a lot of that is owed to the URC getting more involved in economic development in the last 10 years.