Fri, Apr 12, 2019 - Page 4 News List

Miaoli touts new strawberry type

SWEET MIAOLI:Called ‘Lien Hsiang,’ the new variety is highly adaptable to changes in the weather and has the highest sugar content among all Taiwan varieties

By Chien Hui-ju and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Miaoli District Agricultural Research and Extension Station director Lu Hsiu-ying, center, Biological Control Branch Station head Lu Mei-chun, left, and researcher Wu Tai-jung present a new variety of strawberries, the “Miaoli No. 1 Lien Hsiang,” at a news conference in Taipei on Tuesday.

Photo: Chien Hui-ju, Taipei Times

The Miaoli District Agricultural Research and Extension Station on Tuesday announced a new type of strawberry that it said is more resistant to weather and is the sweetest in the nation.

Strawberries are grown on 500 hectares of land across the nation, 90 percent of which is in Miaoli County, agency director Lu Hsiu-ying (呂秀英) said.

Farmers typically begin planting strawberries from April through August, but hot weather and heavy rainfall can damage the seeds, she said.

In 2016, the strawberry industry lost an estimated NT$250 million (US$8.1 million at the current exchange rate) after a disease led to a seedling shortage of 4 million, affecting 80 hectares of crops, she said.

The “Taoyuan No. 1 Feng Hsiang” variety used to be most popular type of strawberry, having been grown for more than 30 years, she said.

However, some farmers began switching to the “Hsiang Shui” variety after a warming climate made it more difficult to grow Feng Hsiang strawberries because of the hot and humid weather in the summer, she said.

Feng Hsiang, which remains a more popular choice, now makes up 55 percent of strawberries grown in Taiwan, while the Hsiang Shui, which has less flavor, but is cheaper, accounts for about 40 percent, she said.

In 2014, the agency began developing its first new variety of strawberry, called the “Miaoli No. 1 Lien Hsiang,” from Feng Hsiang, she said.

Not only is the new variety highly adaptable to changes in the weather, but it also has the highest sugar content among all strawberry varieties in Taiwan, she said.

It has a sugar content of up to 16.5 degrees Brix, compared with the Feng Hsiang’s roughly 10.56 degrees Brix, she said.

The Japanese varieties Sa Mo Yi Nu and Super Jumbo have a sugar content of more than 15 degrees Brix and 15 to 18 degrees Brix respectively, she said.

Lien Hsiang strawberries weigh 20.5g on average, while Feng Hsiang strawberries weigh 14.2g on average, she said.

The agency was granted rights to the new strawberry variety last month and is expected to begin authorizing its commercialization this month, allowing interested farmers or seed companies to start production this year, said Lu Mei-chun (盧美君), who heads the agency’s Biological Control Branch Station.

Consumers should be able to buy the new variety by the end of this year at the earliest, she added.

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