Growers’ Thoughts: Sentinel Cultivar to Be Planted in South Florida This Summer

Last fall, the University of Florida announced the release of a new southern highbush blueberry cultivar, Sentinel. It is an early, vigorous, high-yielding cultivar that has performed well in both North-Central and Central Florida, with no observed disease issues. It was not previously included in South Florida trial sites, but it will be planted at southern trial locations this summer. Also, machine harvest trials including this cultivar will begin next season. Sentinel has been tested in multiple flavor panels at UF, with tasters giving its flavor a high rating. 

Sentinel was named to honor Florida blueberry pioneer Alto Straughn. Per Dr. Patricio Munoz, UF assistant professor and head of the Blueberry Breeding and Genomics Program, “A ‘sentinel’ is a watcher or guardian. It is symbolic. We came up with the idea to name the blueberry after Alto because he ‘watched and guarded’ the blueberry breeding program for many years.”

The following are some specifics from Sentinel trial site evaluations. Detailed information on all UF blueberry cultivars can be found in the UF/IFAS Blueberry Growers Guide app and at

  • Cultivar name: Sentinel (selection code FL11-155)

  • Region best adapted to: north-central and central Florida

  • Production system: performs well in deciduous system in both north-central and central FL; additional data to be gathered for evergreen system

  • Hydrogen cyanamide: not required

  • Machine Harvestability: no data yet; trials to be conducted in 2021

  • Per plant yields: 

    • North-Central FL (2018-2020): 8.8 – 21.0 lbs/plant, average 16.4 lbs/plant

    • Central FL (2018-2020): 5.6 – 10.9 lbs/plant, average 8.2 lbs/plant

  • Known disease susceptibility: none observed to date

  • Known insect damage susceptibility: moderate level of susceptibility to chilli thrips observed, similar to other cultivars

  • Fruit quality data:

    • Fruit firmness: 197 – 217 g/mm, average 207, a little higher than Emerald

    • Berry Weight: 2.0 – 2.9 grams, average 2.4 grams, similar to Emerald

    • Berry Diameter: 15.4 – 19.4 mm, average 17.6 mm, similar to Emerald

    • Brix: 10.0 – 12.5, average 11.5, similar to Emerald

    • Brix/Acid Ratio: 27.2 – 83, average 49.7, better than Emerald

    • Fruit scar: normal (small, dry), similar to Emerald

    • Wax/bloom: medium, similar to Emerald

    • Fruit defects: none

    • Flavor: high flavor score from taste panels (27.5). Higher than Emerald (19.9), very close to Kestrel (29.0).

    • Aroma: low

  • Cultivars with similar flowering time: 

    • North-central FL – Optimus, Patrecia, Vireo, Magnus

    • Central FL – Optimus, Arcadia, Avanti, and Chickadee

  • Other information: High vigor, with large yield in the early part of the season. Good performance with no observed disease issues. 


Credit: D. Phillips


DR. PATRICIO MUNOZ, UF Assistant Professor, Blueberry Breeding and Genomics

& DOUG PHILLIPS, UF Blueberry Extension Coordinator

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