East Malling Research (EMR) aims to mark its 100th anniversary next year with the release of a June-bearing strawberry, provisionally titled Malling's Centenary.
East Malling Strawberry Breeding Club project manager Adam Whitehouse told visitors to last week's Fruit Focus show at EMR's site in Kent: "This has been fast-tracked to market. It has a high percentage of class-one fruit at 93 per cent. It will be head-to-head with Elsanta, although it's slightly earlier."
Currently known only as EM1764, it will be commercialised by Meiosis, which shares the East Malling site with EMR.
At the show, Meiosis also launched the June-bearing strawberry Fenella, the ever-bearing Finesse and Elegance, and two primocane raspberries, Imara and Kweli.
Meiosis technical consultant David Taylor said: "The strawberries have already been approved by the supermarkets, while the raspberries are awaiting approval, and being primocane varieties, could still be planted next spring."
The raspberries were bred in Holland by Geert de Weert of Advanced Berry Breeding.
"I went back to basics and collected genetics from around the world with the goal of developing a variety that wouldn't bleed or soften," he told Grower.
"It's all about quality so growers know they will have fewer claims (due to rejects)."
Kweli is already being grown in Tanzania, flown to the Netherlands, then re-exported to Scandinavia and Russia, he added.
Meanwhile, EMR also launched two raspberries: the conventionally-coloured floricane Malling Freya, again marketed by Meiosis, and the apricot-coloured primocane Autumn Amber, which will be sold exclusively through Waitrose.
EMR breeder Felicidad Fernandez said Waitrose's early involvement had sped up the process of bringing it to market.
"Instead of the usual 10 to 12 years, this has taken less than eight, which is a record," she said.
Fernandez added: "We have been moving from floricane to primocane breeding. There are good royalty-free floricane varieties like Tulameen, whereas the primocane market is more contested - though they are also harder to breed."
Winning strawberry 400 pots given away
Hargreaves Plants handed out more than 400 pots of the new Buddy strawberry, bred by East Malling Research, at Fruit Focus. The company stressed the flavour, yield and shelf life of the ever-bearing variety. It won two awards at last autumn's National Fruit Show, and has a dedicated website, buddystrawberry.com.