Global Plant Breeding
Royce Bringhurst, strawberry breeder
Royce Bringhurst succeeded Richard Baker as the plant breeder in charge of the University of California strawberry breeding program at Davis in 1953. Since that time, Royce has worked jointly with Victor Voth to develop a steady succession of strawberry cultivars that have been the most widely grown cultivars in the world.
Their first widely-grown cultivar was Tioga, introduced in 1964. 'Tioga' was adapted to many growing conditions and climates and was an important parent in breeding programs throughout the world. Their next significant cultivar was Tufts, released in 1972, which became the first cultivar to excel in a winter-planted forcing system in Southern California. The Aiko cultivar, released in 1975, provided growers along the Central Coast of California with a long fruiting season under cool coastal conditions. The Douglas cultivar, introduced in 1979, provided Southern California growers with high yields of large fruit early in the season. The Pajaro cultivar, also introduced in 1979, dramatically improved the quality of fruit shipped from the Central Coast of California. Likewise, the introduction of 'Chandler' in 1983 gave Southern California growers high yields of fruit with improved color and flavor for both fresh and processed markets. Both 'Pajaro' and 'Chandler' are widely grown in many areas of the world where planting systems developed by Royce and Victor were adopted.
The Selva cultivar, released in 1983, became the first widely-grown day-neutral cultivar. This breakthrough cultivar has allowed continuous shipment of fresh strawberry fruit from April through October along the Central Coast of California. Two recent introductions, 'Oso Grande' (a 1987 release) and 'Seascape' (a 1990 release), were important cultivars. 'Oso Grande' is widely planted for early forcing in both Southern California and Florida. The day-neutral cultivar Seascape was important along the Central Coast of California due to its combination of large, attractive fruit early in the spring and continuing crops in summer and fall.
The contributions of Bringhurst and Voth to the strawberry go far beyond cultivar development. They have worked very closely with the strawberry industry throughout the world to develop cultural systems that optimize the production and quality of their cultivars. They recognized early in their careers the importance of nursery locations, digging dates and planting dates on the performance of their cultivars, and worked with the California strawberry nursery industry to improve the quality of planting stock. Voth worked to perfect a winter-planted system of raised beds, plastic mulch and drip irrigation that was copied throughout the world. Bringhurst was an early proponent of germplasm conservation, and the use of wild Fragaria species. His vision and persistence resulted in the development of day-neutral strawberry cultivars from Fragaria virginiana subsp. glauca. The day-neutral strawberry, in turn, has impacted the strawberry industry worldwide, creating opportunities in many areas for strawberry production outside of the traditional spring crop cycle.