The strawberries of the future could be smaller and more expensive at retail - but they may also be better tasting, healthier and produced using less water, researchers believe.

Pressure on water usage in agriculture has forced growers to look at less water-intensive methods of production. Research by Cranfield University into pre-harvest water deficit irrigation on strawberries found that reducing the amount of water on strawberry plants led to fruit with high concentrations of both taste and health-related compounds.

The harvested berries were smaller, but had a higher concentration of sugars as they were not diluted through overwatering, and antioxidant levels were up.

Shoppers may be prepared to pay more for strawberries produced in this manner, said researcher Gemma Chope. "If you can guarantee a better-tasting, healthier fruit maybe you could command a premium," she added.