A new strawberry cultivar, Keepsake, has been released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Keepsake is a midseason spring-bearing – or short-day – strawberry with the scientific name of Fragaria xananassa Duch ex Rozier. The new strawberry is the first resulting from an increased effort by the USDA Agricultural Research Service at Beltsville, Maryland, to develop strawberries with improved shelf life.

Compared with other current strawberry cultivars and breeding selections evaluated after two weeks in cold storage, Keepsake had a reduced proportion of degraded and decayed fruits. The proportion of fruits degraded at one week was 29 percent, less than for all other cultivars, including “Chandler” at 81 percent and “Camarosa” at 93 percent. The fruits have outstanding flavor with excellent soluble solids or sweetness, and moderate acidity or tartness. They also have a pleasing texture and are juicy when eaten. Keepsake is closely related to “Flavorfest,” a strawberry plant also developed by that project in 2012. Flavorfest is available for purchase and is popular with commercial growers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.

Keepsake fruits are attractive with good size, color, gloss, and a showy calyx or cap. They are firm and tough enough for handling during harvest and packaging. It’s expected the berry will perform well for growers in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern United States and adjacent areas. Keepsake primarily fruits with midseason cultivars, and sometimes fruits with late-midseason cultivars. Keepsake’s first harvest date ranged from May 10 to May 27 in Maryland.

Through nine years of testing Keepsake’s average total yield was 1.3 pounds per plant. That ranks Keepsake yield as slightly less than Flavorfest and “Allstar,” and greater than Camarosa and Chandler. Like Flavorfest, Allstar and “Earliglow,” Keepsake is resistant to anthracnose fruit rot, one of the most serious fruit rots world-wide. With no fumigation or fungicides in annual plasticulture Keepsake’s total fruit-rot decay was 14 percent, similar to that of Flavorfest and less than that of Chandler at 16 percent.

Keepsake was approved for release in 2018; licensing information can be obtained through the USDA-Agricultural Research Service’s Office of Technology Transfer. The strawberry cultivar was increased for distribution by Lassen Canyon Nursery of Redding, California.

Keepsake is described in the February 2019 issue of “HortScience” by plant geneticist Kim Lewers, horticulturalist John Enns and visiting scientist Patricia Castro of the Agricultural Research Service’s Beltsville Agricultural Research Center “Genetic Improvement of Fruits and Vegetables Laboratory.”

Visit www.ars.usda.gov and search for “keepsake” for more information.

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Sharon Durham is with the office of communications in the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s chief scientific in-house research agency.