Horticultural Sciences Department

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Issue No. 604

The Vegetarian Newsletter 

A Horticultural Sciences Department Extension Publication on 
Vegetable and Fruit Crops 

Eat your Veggies and Fruits!!!!!

Publish Date: 
August 2015

Sweet Sensation™ Brand ‘Florida127’: A New Strawberry for a New Marketing Approach

Vance M. Whitaker, Craig K. Chandler and Natalia A. Peres, Gulf Coast Research Center, University of Florida, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, Wimauma, FL

            ‘Florida127’ (U.S. Plant Patent 25574P3) is a new strawberry cultivar released from the University of Florida in 2013. ‘Florida127’ originated from a 2009 cross between WinterStar™ ‘FL 05-107’ (female parent) and breeding selection FL 02-58 (male parent).  In its first commercial introduction during the 2014-15 season approximately 500 acres were grown in west-central Florida, with an estimated 1,500 acres to be grown during the 2015-16 fruiting season (Nov – Mar).  The current industry standard ‘Florida Radiance’ (Chandler et al., 2009) will make up most of the remainder of the approximately 10,500 acres of strawberries in west-central Florida, and several comparisons are made to this variety in the following sections.

            A trademark was obtained for the University of Florida by Florida Foundation Seed Producers (FFSP) for Sweet Sensation™, a brand that can be used by Florida growers to market fruit of ‘Florida127’ with permission from the Florida Strawberry Growers Association (FSGA).  A consortium of growers and shippers have test marketed the brand in Publix supermarkets in 2014-15, with further test marketing under this brand slated for additional chains in 2015-16.  Due to the outstanding flavor and shelf life of the ‘Florida127’ variety, the industry has identified the premium Sweet Sensation™ label as an opportunity to distinguish Florida fruit at the retail level in a competitive marketplace. 

            The following sections are intended to provide for growers and industry professionals a brief, general description of the ‘Florida127’ variety and its optimal management in west-central Florida, with some preliminary comments on its suitability for other geographical locations.  General descriptions of various traits including yield, fruit size, shelf life, eating quality, etc. are based on data to be published in HortScience (in press). 

Fruit and Plant Characteristics

            ‘Florida127’ is a short-day plant adapted to annual, winter plasticulture growing systems.  The plant is upright, with long stems facilitating easy harvest (Fig. 1).  It produces conic to broad-conic fruit that are uniform in shape throughout the season, resulting in few non-marketable fruit except during heavy rains which tend to interfere with pollination.

Figure 1. ‘Florida127’ plants and fruit in Dover, FL.

Fruit size is very large, exceeding that of ‘Florida Radiance’ on average over the course of the season. Fruit firmness is slightly greater than that of ‘Florida Radiance’, with excellent shelf life extending a minimum of 2 to 3 days past that of current commercial standards.  However, the resistance of ‘Florida127’ to water damage is less than ‘Florida Radiance’, with some cracking of ripe fruit observed and/or a pale, water-soaked spot when standing in water on top of the plastic mulch.  The external color of the fruit is bright red that appears lighter than ‘Florida Radiance’ and does not darken overly late in the season (Fig. 2).  Since the fruit is firm and develops external color gradually, growers should adjust picking schedules to allow optimum external color development.  Overall, the greater susceptibility to water damage, combined with slower color development and greater firmness than ‘Florida Radiance’, suggest that ‘Florida127’ will tend to be an advantageous variety in dry, warm seasons, whereas ‘Florida Radiance’ should be better adapted to cooler, wetter seasons.

Figure 2.  ‘Florida127’ has larger lighter color than ‘Florida Radiance’ that does not darken significantly after cold storage.    

The ripe fruit of ‘Florida127’ have excellent flavor and aroma.  Soluble solids contents of ‘Florida127’ fruit were significantly higher than that of ‘Florida Radiance’ on six out of seven harvest dates tested.  Titratable acidity was not significantly different from ‘Florida Radiance’.  Trained and consumer sensory panels consistently rated ‘Florida127’ the highest out of the commercial varieties tested for “sweetness” and “strawberry flavor”. 

Field Performance

            Early and total season yields of ‘Florida127’ have been very similar to ‘Florida Radiance’ in multiple years of testing, both in experimental and on-farm trials.  When planted early in the planting period, no overly-elongated fruit have been observed, in contrast to ‘Florida Radiance’ which can produce elongated fruit when planted early in west-central Florida and exposed to hot weather in October and early November.  The ideal planting date window in west-central Florida is currently considered to be 1-10 Oct.  Because this variety is more vegetatively vigorous than ‘Florida Radiance’ in-row spacing of 16 inches is recommended, especially at early planting dates. 

            In northern Florida, the robust vegetative growth of the variety may be an advantage over other varieties, in that it may allow suitable vegetative growth before cold temperatures slow the maturation of the plant.  In south Florida, care to prevent excess vegetative growth will be particularly important.        


            Field studies and observations suggest that ‘Florida127’ does not require as much nitrogen (N) fertilization during the first few weeks of establishment and growth as ‘Florida Radiance’ in order to produce high early and total yields.  This variety also appears to respond more strongly to N application in terms of vegetative growth compared to ‘Florida Radiance’.  Growers should therefore carefully monitor N fertilization to prevent excess growth, particularly early in the season.  For this reason, pre-plant N fertilization is not recommended.  In mid- to late-season, ‘Florida127’ should be able to tolerate higher N rates than ‘Florida Radiance’ due to its higher fruit firmness, and rates of 1 lb N/acre/day should usually be possible without negatively impacting fruit quality.  However, lowering N applications in advance of rains may increase the resistance of the fruit to damage.    

Disease Management 

‘Florida127’ has a disease resistance profile that is fairly similar to ‘Florida Radiance’ with a couple of exceptions (Fig. 3).  Both varieties are moderately susceptible (MS) to angular leaf spot and moderately resistant (MR) to charcoal rot.  ‘Florida127’ is more susceptible (S) to powdery mildew and is highly resistant (HR) to anthracnose fruit rot.  Overall, the three diseases susceptibilities that will require the most management are to Botrytis fruit rot, Phytophthora root and crown rot and powdery mildew.

Figure 2.  Disease resistance profile of ‘Florida127’ in comparison to ‘Florida Radiance’ based on inoculated trials at UF GCREC (N. Peres).    


            In summary, ‘Florida127’ is a promising new variety for west-central Florida and other winter and early spring production regions worldwide.  Its unusual combination of flavor, shelf life, fruit size and early yield make it potentially profitable for the grower as well as desirable for the consumer.  Careful management of plant size is critical to prevent excess vegetative growth which will negatively impact fruit coloring, Botrytis disease pressure and pollination.  The continued test marketing of ‘Florida127’ fruit under the Sweet Sensation™ brand will hopefully provide an opportunity for consumers to preferentially purchase Florida strawberries with consistently high fruit quality.   

Key References

Chandler, C.K., B.M. Santos, N.A. Peres, C. Joquand, A. Plotto, and C.A. Sims. 2009. ‘Florida Radiance’ strawberry. HortScience 44:1769-1770.

Seijo, T., J. Mertely, V.M. Whitaker, and N. Peres. 2013. Evaluation of strawberry cultivars and advanced selections for field resistance to anthracnose and Botrytis fruit rots, 2012-13. Plant Dis. Mgmt. Rep. 8:SMF029. Online publication. doi: 10.1094/PDMR05.

Seijo, T., J. Mertely, V.M. Whitaker, and N. Peres. 2014. Evaluation of strawberry cultivars and advanced selections for resistance to Colletotrichum crown rot caused by Colletotrichum gloeosporioides, 2013-14. Plant Dis. Mgmt. Rep. 8:SMF030. Online publication. doi: 10.1094/PDMR05.

Whitaker, V.M., C.K. Chandler, N. Peres, M.C. Nunes, A. Plotto and C. Sims.  Sensation™ ‘Florida127’ Strawberry. HortScience (in press).


Have you ever heard a grower or farmer say, “I hired a contractor and he takes care of all the labor issues.  I don’t have to worry about it.”?  Unfortunately, this grower may experience a rude awakening if it comes to pass that his labor contractor has violated any one of a number of farm labor regulations.  Welcome to the world of Joint Employment. That is, the grower AND farm labor contractor are JOINTLY responsible for seeing that all laws and regulations concerning farm workers are upheld.  Through joint employment, any mistake by one will adversely affect the other.

Many growers have argued that their labor contractors are “independent” and therefore they are not subject to joint employment. The definitions of “independence” and “joint employment” have been hotly debated and tested through various court proceedings. The summation of these definitional debates can be found in a US Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (DOL-WH) fact sheet (http://www.dol.gov/whd/regs/compliance/whdfs35.pdf ).   Investigators for the DOL-WH rely on the following seven questions to determine whether a contractor and grower are “independent” or whether they are “joint employers.”

1)     Who has power over the workers in directing or controlling how the work is performed?

2)     Who has the power to hire or fire, modify employment conditions, or determine the pay rate of the workers?

3)     Is there any degree of permanency and duration of the relationship among the grower, labor contractor and workers? K99

4)     Are the services rendered by the workers repetitive, rote tasks requiring little training?

5)     Are the activities performed by the worker integral to the overall farming operation?

6)     Are the work activities performed on the grower’s premises?

7)     Does the grower undertake such responsibilities as payroll records, pay checks, FICA taxes, workers’ compensation insurance, field sanitation, housing or transportation, or providing tools and equipment required for the job?

If a grower can answer YES to any of the above questions, most likely he/she is a joint employer with the labor contractor. The implications of joint employment are that both parties must take full responsibility for the consequences when farm labor regulations are violated. These consequences include both regulatory and civil penalties.  Furthermore, since growers are tied to their land and usually considered to have “deep pockets,” they are more of an attractive target for investigators and civil attorneys then are labor contractors.    If you are a grower and utilize the services of licensed farm labor contractors, carefully review your employment policies and relationships with these individuals. Are they carrying sufficient worker’s comp insurance? Are their busses in good operating order? Are they correctly recording the number of hours worked and paying all workers at the minimum wage level? Are they correctly handling complaints about sexual harassment and not committing acts of discrimination within their crew? As a “joint employer” you must be fully aware of how your labor contractor is conducting business while on your farming operation.

Joint Employment is one of the many topics included in the UF/IFAS Farm Labor Supervisor Training.    One way to make sure your contractors know the basics is to require them to earn the Certificate of Farm Labor Management issued by UF/IFAS as part of the Farm Labor Supervisor Training Program.  Attending classes and earning the Certificate does not guarantee that mistakes won’t be made, but if mistakes have been made out of ignorance, the training program should give both the grower and contractor the knowledge to address and fix the problems to avoid future violations.      

To earn the Certificate of Farm Labor Management, one must take at least 8 classes and pass a test for each class.  Three classes are specifically required:  Wage & Hour; Human Resource Compliance, and one class in worker safety.   All of the classes are taught concurrently in both English and Spanish.

The following is a summary of the scheduled classes being offered during the fall of 2015 at four locations: Belle Glade, Sebring, Lake Alfred and Immokalee (see table below for dates and locations).  Additional dates and locations can be added so long as at least 10 people commit to attend.  Further, the Farm Labor Supervisor training staff is willing to hold training classes at grower locations. A registration fee for each class will be charged.  


1.      WAGE & HOUR:    Basics of Department of Labor (DOL)-enforced (MSPA) and FLSA regulations related to paying workers fairly:  information workers are required to know before and during their employment; importance of correctly recording compensable hours and minimum wage; when to start and stop the clock each day; in-class exercises for calculating pay; and the concept of joint employment.   Length:  2 hours   (REQUIRED FOR CFLM)

2.      FARM LABOR CONTRACTOR BASICS:   Details of legal registrations required by the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) for Farm labor contractors.   Each portion of the process of becoming registered is covered, starting with general eligibility requirements and testing, then leading into authorizations (driving, transporting, and housing) and everything that is needed to support each authorization.   The class covers timing, supporting documents and “helpful hints” for the registration process.   The latter part of the class reviews “Surviving in Inspection” from all the various agencies that oversee the activities of FLCs.   Length:  2 hours

3.      HUMAN RESOURCE COMPLIANCE:   Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) regulations regarding discrimination; harassment; protected classes; reasonable accommodation; retaliation and mediation.   A special focus is placed on sexual harassment.  This class is based mostly on real-life case studies that we analyze in class – each year we use four different case studies.  We discuss a mediation service that can help avoid expensive court cases.  The class also includes a brief overview of Child Labor laws and signs of Human Trafficking. Length:  2 hours  (REQUIRED FOR CFLM)

4.      MANAGEMENT COMMUNICATIONS, PART 1:   This is part 1 of a 3-part course on management communication skills for supervisors of farm workers.  Part 1 includes the effect of non-verbal communication; importance of body language, facial expressions and tone; cultural awareness and stereotyping that affects communication; a management style test; and management skills, including the difference between effective encouragement and praise and between threats and consequences.  The class ends with a discussion of Respect – how supervisors perceive respect compared with the way workers perceive it.   Length: 2 hours

5.      RULES FOR BUS/VAN DRIVERS:  This class is designed for drivers and mechanics and will focus on DOT regulations for vehicle inspections and driver preparedness.   WH/DOL and DBPR regulations will also be covered, and a discussion of “when is a carpool not a carpool?”  In Vehicle preparedness, we will review details of what needs to be inspected on farm labor vehicles, what paperwork is required and who is responsible for related tasks.   Driver preparedness will include the DOT medical examination, alcohol and drug testing from the viewpoint of the drivers, and how drivers track hours of service.  Tracey McQuilken, retired Sergeant Investigator with FDOT/FHP will share real-life headlines as examples of what can happen if these regulations are NOT followed, that should make everyone a believer!  

6.       SAFE DRIVING:  This class begins with an overview of the details and importance of vehicle preparation and driver preparation.  The rest of the class focuses on defensive driving principles (Space, Anticipation, Adjustments, and Distractions) and concludes with information on major distractions of drug and alcohol use, cell phones, and texting. 

7.      AGRICULTURE EQUIPMENT SAFETY:  Regulatory and best practice protections related to most types of agricultural equipment used in fields and groves, including work safety practices that prevent injuries and fatalities.    Length:  2 hours

8.      PESTICIDE SAFETY:  The pesticide safety class presents an overview of best practices related on how to comply with the worker protection standards (WPS). This class also includes PESTICIDE HANDLER training, which earns attendees a WPS Pesticide Handler training verification card or certificate. Under current regulations, a person trained as pesticide handler is authorized to conduct the WPS training for agricultural workers.  Length:  2 hours

9.      CPR/AED:   Often, the key to saving someone’s life is the action and reaction of the people close by when the situation first occurs.  This class will enable you to perform CPR and use a defibrillator to resuscitate someone with cardiac arrest.  In addition, you will learn how to perform the Heimlich maneuver to save someone who is choking.     You can offer not only a chance of life, but a chance of a good life.   Includes certification by the American Heart Association.  Taught by Southwest Florida Safety Consultants, Inc.  Length:  3.5 hours

10.  FIRST AID:   American Safety and Health class on Basic First Aid.  This comprehensive class includes legal considerations and personal safety of administering first aid; assessing the patient; the difference between soft tissue, muscle and bone, and facial injuries; burns; sudden illnesses; poisonings; bites and stings; and environmental emergencies related to heat and cold.  Taught by Southwest Florida Safety Consultants, Inc.  Length:  3.5 hours

Fall 2015 Classes


Belle Glade

Lake Alfred



Rules for Bus/Van Drivers

Safe Driving

Tues 11/3

Wed  10/14

Thurs 10/22

Tues 11/10

Human Resource Compliance

Management Communications

Tues 10/20

Wed 10/7

Thurs 10/8

Tues 11/17

First Aid


Tues 10/13

Wed 10/21

Thurs 10/29

Tues 11/3

Wage & Hour

Farm Labor Contractor Basics

Tues 10/27

Wed 10/28

Thurs 10/15

Tues 11/24

Agriculture Equipment Safety

Pesticide Safety

Thurs 11/5

Tues 11/24

Thurs 11/12

Thurs 11/19

If there is sufficient interest, individual classes of combinations of classes can be arranged at times and locations convenient for the participants. We also provide training at grower locations that incorporates grower-specific policies and procedures. 

For more information, contact Fritz Roka, 239-658-3428, fmroka@ufl.edu; Carlene Thissen, 239-658-3449, carlene@ufl.edu; or Primo Garza, 239-658-3463, pgarza08@ufl.edu .   To register, go to http://www.imok.ufl.edu/programs/economics/fls.php

Authors:   Roka, F.; C. Thissen; M.T. Bayer.  

Fritz Roka and Carlene Thissen work for the University of Florida at the Southwest Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL, 239-658-3400.  fmroka@ufl.edu and carlene@ufl.edu.   Mike Bayer is a former DOL-WHD Investigator, now with Curran, Bayer & Associates, West Palm Beach, 561-371-0126 mtbayer@curranbayer.com