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Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

Gulf Coast Research and Education Center

Breeding and Genetics

Strawberry Breeding

All UF/IFAS cultivars are developed through traditional breeding methods and are not genetically engineered. The GCREC develops strawberry cultivars for the Florida industry, and commercial production is concentrated on more than 11,000 acres in west-central Florida. Criteria for selection include: High marketable yields, especially in the early season; excellent fruit appearance, size and shelf life under harsh environmental conditions; consistently sweet flavor; and resistance to multiple diseases of economic importance.

UF/IFAS Strawberry Varieties

Tomato Breeding

The UF Tomato Breeding and Genetics program utilizes traditional breeding methods to develop improved hybrids and breeding lines adapted to Florida, and to understand the genetic control of important traits. Each year, approximately 50,000 plants are evaluated and selected for advancing based on several characteristics including: yield, vine strength, disease resistance, fruit size and quality (flavor, color, texture, firmness, resistance to cracking, etc.), disease and others.

There are eight private breeding programs developing tomato varieties for Florida. Most of these companies rely to some extent on the UF tomato breeding program as a supplier of improved germplasm, parents of commercial hybrids, and/or finished hybrid cultivars.

Ornamental Horticulture Breeding

Current breeding efforts are directed toward the developing and releasing new caladium and gerbera cultivars, genetic sterilizing lantana and nandina, and evaluating and selecting superior Florida-native plants.

Alternative Crop Breeding

GCREC is working to find new and profitable crops for Florida growers.  New breeding efforts will be established for hops, hemp, artichokes, pomegrantes, blackberries, and other commodities that may not be found in Florida...yet.

Breeding and Genetics Faculty Members


Dr. Zhanao Deng
Environmental Horticulture
Floriculture Breeding
813-419-6605 | Rm. 166


Dr. Vance Whitaker
Horticultural Sciences
Strawberry Breeding and Genetics
813-419-6608 | Rm. 169

Dr. Seonghee Lee
Assistant Professor
Horticultural Sciences
Strawberry Breeding and Genetics
813-419-6611 | Rm. 172


Dr. Jessica Chitwood-Brown
Assistant Professor
Horticultural Sciences
Tomato Breeding and Genetics
813-419-6610 | Rm. 171