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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Fruit Researcher Honored by ARS / January 22, 2004 / News from the USDA Agricultural Research Service

James Spiers and a technician examine a blueberry plant. Click the image for additional information about it.
James Spiers and a technician examine a blueberry plant.  Click the image for additional information about it.


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Photo: A southern highbush cultivar called Biloxi is adapted to the Gulf Coast. Link to photo information
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News story about Spiers' research (July 02)

Fruit Researcher Honored by ARS

By Jim Core
January 22, 2004

NEW ORLEANS, La., Jan. 22–Horticulturist James M. Spiers was named "Mid South Area Senior Research Scientist of 2003" by the Agricultural Research Service, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.

The ARS Mid South Area includes Kentucky, Tennessee, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

Spiers is research leader of the Small Fruits Research Station in Poplarville, Miss. He was honored today during an awards ceremony here for research and the transfer of technology leading to the establishment of a vibrant blueberry industry in the southern United States, and for opening the path for expanded research on other horticultural products.

"As a result of his many detailed studies and technology transfer activities, Dr. Spiers is today considered a pioneer in blueberry culture in the Gulf South," said Edward B. Knipling, ARS acting administrator. "He is considered the authority on rabbiteye blueberry production."

Knipling presented a plaque to Spiers at the ceremony today during the ARS National Scientific Leadership Meeting and Annual Recognition Program. He will also receive a cash award and additional support for his research program.

When Spiers began working for ARS in tung research at Poplarville in 1969, there were no commercial blueberry plantings in Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama or Texas, and very small acreages in Florida and Georgia. Now, findings from blueberry and other fruit research at Poplarville have been incorporated into the cultural practices of Gulf Coast producers. Recent projects have also included work on grapes, blackberries, strawberries, melons and various vegetables.

A floral bud rating scale Spiers developed is used nationally and internationally by the blueberry industry in flowering/freeze damage research, timing of pesticide and plant growth regulator applications and regional varietal recommendations. During blueberry bloom, the rating scale guides extension scientists and growers in the timing and implementation of frost protection practices. His recommendations on the optimal nutrient requirements of rabbiteye blueberry plants have been followed worldwide. His studies have resulted in improved cultural practices for southern blueberries, and cultivars released by his station exhibit increased freeze tolerance yet ripen earlier than presently grown cultivars.

Spiers received his bachelor's degree in agronomy/soils from Mississippi State University in 1963 and his master's degree in agronomy/soils there in 1966. Spiers received a doctorate in agronomy/ physiology from Texas A&M in 1969. He is a member of the Southern Blueberry/Small Fruit Workers, the International Society for Horticultural Science, American Society for Horticultural Science, the Southern Association of Agricultural Scientists and the Mississippi Academy of Sciences.

Last Modified: 2/19/2014
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