Rutgers Strawberry History
Strawberry research in terms of fertilization, irrigation, insects and variety trials at the New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES) dates back to 1870, but the breeding of strawberries didn't begin in earnest at Rutgers until around the late 1920's. Some of the noteworthy strawberry cultivars historically released by Rutgers NJAES are Sparkle, Jerseybelle and Raritan.
- 1942 - Sparkle was a leading late season cultivar in the U.S. for many decades and is still available as an heirloom strawberry. Sparkle had high yields and berries with great flavor, but the size of the berry was considered small compared to newer varieties.
- 1955 - Jerseybelle quickly became the leading variety in New Jersey, because of its large, glossy and attractively colored berries. In 1963, Jerseybelle constituted 60 percent of New Jerseys acreage under strawberry cultivation.
- 1968 - Raritan was considered productive with flavorful berries, however, plants were susceptible to a range of diseases and this strawberry is no longer available commercially.
- 2015 - Rutgers Scarlet™ can be grown in both plasticulture and matted row production or on a smaller scale by home gardeners. Rutgers Scarlet™ has exhibited good production, but its most distinguishing characteristic is exceptional fruit flavor.
- 2022 - Rutgers D'Light has performed well on New Jersey farms and is unique because of its holiday light bulb shaped fruit. The fruit of Rutgers D'Light is very sweet and consumers like it because the shape makes them great for dipping.
In 2014, three new Rutgers strawberry cultivars were submitted for patent protection. These cultivars were developed via traditional breeding techniques by Rutgers professor emeritus Gojko Jelenkovic. For over 35 years, Jelenkovic worked on improving strawberry yield, resistance to diseases, and, most importantly, fruit quality and flavor. This work was followed by extensive testing of strawberry selections by agricultural and natural resource agents Bill Hlubik and Peter Nitzsche in field trials at NJAES, observational trials at conventional and organic farms, and flavor evaluations by consumer taste panels.
As a result, the cultivar Rutgers Scarlet™ ('NJ99-204-1', US PP27,587 – issued 01/24/2017) was released in 2015. Rutgers Scarlet™ can be grown in both plasticulture and matted row production or on a smaller scale by home gardeners. Rutgers Scarlet™ has exhibited good production, but its most distinguishing characteristic is exceptional fruit flavor.
Rutgers D'Light ('NJ09-2-1', Patent # PP 33,784) was released in 2022. Rutgers D'Light has performed well on New Jersey farms and is unique because of its holiday light bulb shaped fruit. The fruit of Rutgers D'Light are very sweet and consumers like it because the shape makes them great for dipping.
These new cultivars have the potential to increase strawberry production by eastern U.S. growers, especially of local farms with direct markets, while their customers will benefit from the availability of high-quality fruit.