Science Behind the Berry

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In 1925, the Strawberry Investigation Lab was formed in Plant City, Florida. This lab was created to investigate strawberry diseases. Dr. Albert N. Brooks, a plant pathologist, was the first faculty member and served as director of the research station for over 30 years.

In 1927, Hillsborough Country, donated an 8-acre tract of land near Springhead along with funds to build a field laboratory. Before too long, the laboratory was fully stocked with the latest equipment of the time such as scientific evaporators and much more. It became a branch unit of the Florida Agriculture Experiment Station. George Strickland, an agriculture technician, assisted Dr. Brooks with much of his research.

In case you were not already aware, in order to ensure maximum crop production, farmers must use a wide range of chemicals, including fertilizers, fuels, equipment sanitizers and protectants, refrigerants, as well as several different pesticides to control weeds, fungi, insects, and other adverse organisms.

Moreover storing these chemicals safely and securely was always a priority at the field laboratory. As the useful resources on the Storemasta website explain, all hazardous chemicals, including fuels, refrigerants and pesticides must be kept in appropriate chemical storage containers.

Correspondingly, the research for the first several years was concerned with disease and nematodes affecting strawberries. The research expanded into vegetable crops in 1946.

In 1952, Dr. Brooks developed the first Florida strawberry variety, the Florida Ninety.

Hillsborough County provided an additional 20 acres of land two miles northwest of Dover in 1960 to expand the laboratory and field research. The following year, the state legislature provided funds to construct an office-laboratory, additional fields and a residence.

In 1963, the facility was renamed the “Strawberry and Vegetable Field Laboratory” and responsibility was assigned to the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center (GCREC) in Bradenton, FL.

During the late 1970s, the Center’s focus changed to working primarily with strawberries and the local industry. In 1986, Dr. Charles Howard and Dr. Earl Albregt were inducted into the Florida Strawberry Hall of Fame, the industry’s highest honor, for their lifetime dedication to Florida strawberries.

After years of cultivation and experimentation, the center released the Rosa Linda strawberry variety. In 2000, two more varieties were released, Strawberry Festival and Earlibrite. Today, nearly 60% of Florida strawberries are of the Festival variety.

Former Academic Faculty of GCREC-Dover

  • Dr. Albert N. Brooks, Plant Pathology 1925-1966
  • Mr. R.E. Nolan, Plant Pathology 1930-1936
  • Dr. J.W. Wilson, Plant Pathology 1938
  • Mr. R.N. Lobdell, Plant Pathology 1939
  • Dr. Paul Sutton, Horticulture 1961-1967
  • Dr. R. Nims, Plant Pathology 1966-1967
  • Dr. Earl Albergts, Soil Science 1967-1996
  • Dr. Charles Howard, Plant Pathology 1967-1991