If you've ever eaten a strawberry, the odds are that you've had a taste of Royce Bringhurst's handiwork. When it comes to strawberries, history is divided neatly between pre-Bringhurst and post-Bringhurst. In 1950, California had two low-yielding strawberry varieties. Nearly four decades of work by Bringhurst and his long-term research partner Victor Voth, however, brought this number to over thirty and established the strawberry as an economically-significant crop for the state. In their breeding program, Bringhurst and Voth evaluated more than 20,000 seedlings annually, selecting efficiently for bigger size, higher yields, and reduced photoperiod sensitivity. Some of the varieties that emerged from their program more than quadrupled the annual yield per acre of this crop.
Underpinning Bringhurst's mastery of breeding systems and variety development in strawberry were his keen research interests in disease resistance and the cytogenetics and evolution of polyploidy in Fragaria. By the time of his retirement in 1989, Bringhurst was recognized as the world authority in strawberry breeding; and with over 80% of the US strawberries being cultivars developed at UC Davis, his legacy remains to this day.