The University strawberry breeding program began in 1948 under the direction of plant pathologist Albert Brooks at a Florida Agricultural Experiment Station (FAES) Center near Plant City.
The first cultivar, ‘Florida Ninety,’ was released in 1952 and became the dominant variety grown in Florida. At the time, it was known for its high yields and moderately-high degree of resistance to crown rot. Subsequent breeding efforts were sporadic until 1968 when Charlie Howard began a systematic process for crossing and selection at the Gulf Coast Research and Education Center that continues to this day.
‘FloridaBelle’ was released in 1975, followed by ‘Dover’ in 1979. Both varieties showed improved yield and resistance to crown rot, but they suffered from fruit-quality problems. ‘Sweet Charlie,’ released in 1992, produced higher yields from December through February than any other available variety, and it was the only Central Florida variety that was resistant to anthracnose fruit rot.