Bigger, Better Berries Available
Black Butte blackberries and Chandler blueberries were
released cooperatively by the Agricultural Research Service and Oregon State
Fruit salads, ice cream, and pastries may soon be bursting with new berry
varieties from the Agricultural Research
Five just-released cultivars of blackberries, blueberries, and strawberries
promise to delight not only consumers, but growers ranging from home gardeners
to commercial producers.
"In general, these berries ripen before or after the typical growing
season, making fresh fruit available longer each summer," says geneticist
Chad E. Finn. Finn developed and released the berries with cooperation from
other ARS scientists and Oregon State University. He works at the ARS
Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Corvallis.
Another advantage, says Finn, is that many of the new cultivars produce much
larger fruit than their existing commercial counterparts.
The two new blackberries are prime examples. Black Butte berries are among
the world's largest. Averaging 2 inches long and 1 inch in diameter, they are
almost twice the size of most fresh blackberries. Siskiyou is also large and
especially sweet. This berry starts ripening a couple of weeks ahead of the
main berry season, to hit the fresh market early; later fruit from the same
vines can go into yogurt, ice cream, and bakery products.
"Both of these large blackberries are quite attractive to pick-your-own
operators and large commercial growers," says Charlie Boyd, who propagates
the berry plants at Cedar Valley Nursery in Centralia, Washington.
"Siskiyou has established a niche market and commands a premium
Chandler, a high-yielding highbush blueberry, also bears very large fruit.
This late midseason berry comes in after the industry standard, Bluecrop. While
most blueberries ripen over a 3-week period, Chandler provides ripe fruit for 4
to 5 weeks.
Chandler was initially selected and developed by Arlen Draper at the ARS
Fruit Laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland. Mark K. Ehlenfeldt, a geneticist at
the ARS Blueberry/Cranberry Research Laboratory in Chatsworth, New Jersey,
completed its development and cooperative release with ARS in Oregon.
Two new strawberries, Firecracker and Independence, also produce berries
longer. "These strawberries begin ripening around the 4th of July and
extend the season up to 3 weeks," says Finn. A less obvious benefit to the
extended season, he says, is that growers can keep their field workers employed
An order to your favorite berry nursery this winter should ensure the new
varieties arrive for spring planting. Growth and ripening will vary, of course,
depending on location and conditions.
Whether you grow these berries yourself or just enjoy them from the
supermarket (where they should show up in a few years), you'll be doing your
body a favor. Berries are high in fiber and vitamin C but low in
caloriesand recent research by ARS and others indicates that strawberries
and blueberries contain high levels of antioxidants and other chemicals that
help a person stay healthy. By Kathryn
Chad E. Finn is at the USDA-ARS
Crops Research Laboratory, 3420 NW Orchard Ave., Corvallis, OR 97330; phone
(541) 750-8760 or 750-8759, fax (541) 750-8764.
"Bigger, Better Berries Available Soon" was published in
the January 1998 issue of Agricultural Research magazine. Click
here to see this issue's table of