Kent scientists serve up an Ace strawberry
A new strawberry variety bred in Kent, seen as a game-changer and reinforcing the county’s reputation for fruit production, is to be launched to the industry.
MallingTM Ace, is a strawberry first selected in 2015 and trialled in 2017 at NIAB EMR, the horticultural research centre at East Malling. It offers the potential to boost the fortunes of growers in the UK by providing high-quality fruit throughout the year that matches the quality of the best June strawberries. After the success of its commercial trials in 2019, Malling Ace has been fast-tracked to get it to market.
The variety, developed by the NIAB EMR team led by Strawberry Breeder Adam Whitehouse, is an ever-bearer which can crop consistently from May to September, and may even offer potential opportunities for vertical or urban farming as the industry looks towards novel production systems required in the future.
Growers currently plant ever-bearers to secure a later crop but it is June-bearers which traditionally peak during Wimbledon fortnight that offer the best quality strawberries.
Professor Mario Caccamo, Managing Director of NIAB EMR, said: “MallingTM Ace offers a real opportunity for growers to meet the increased demand for high quality British-grown strawberries throughout the season. Although it is a couple of years until we can see MallingTM Ace in the supermarket’s shelves, we are already working with partner propagators to grow the variety and make available plants for growers soon.
“Our research scientists were part of a global research initiative to plot the genome of the strawberry. Thanks to this level of understanding will be able to breed future new varieties that will continue to meet consumer demand for great tasting and attractive looking fruit.”
MallingTM Ace is going to be launched to the industry at Fruit Focus, the country’s leading technical event for the fruit industry held at NIAB EMR later this month. The breeders believe Ace will join other commercially successful varieties developed at NIAB EMR including MallingTM Centenary launched in 2013, which is now selling more than 70 million plants a year.
Adam Whitehouse said: “While most new varieties fill important niches in the cropping pattern for the UK strawberry sector, Ace offers the prospect of game, set and match for the industry by creating an ever-bearer variety with consistent high yields of top-quality fruit.”
The new varieties are the result of the breeding programme based at NIAB EMR, which is funded by the East Malling Strawberry Breeding Club, a public-private partnership.