Start Date: Oct 01, 2008
End Date: Jul 01, 2013
Identify desirable traits in small fruit and ornamental plants, develop improved varieties using traditional and modern genetic methods, and release superior germplasm in order to increase profitability of small acreage farms in the Gulf Coast Region. Germplasm from established cultivars, wild clones, and their hybrids will be cooperatively evaluated at USDA-ARS and University Experiment Stations throughout the southeastern United States. Small fruit cultivars that are released will have improved vigor and fruit quality, expanded ripening seasons including earlier harvests, enhanced adaptation, greater productivity with larger yields, improved fresh or processing berry qualities, and enhanced suitability for mechanical harvesting. This research project, combined with cooperative testing and technology transfer efforts with land grant universities, will develop superior cultivars for rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberry, muscadine grapes and other small fruit. Because the ornamental commodity comprises hundreds of plant species, target genera will be selected for improvement from both herbaceous perennials and woody landscape crops. Superior ornamental cultivars that are released will have increased disease resistance and enhanced ornamental qualities including greater aesthetic appeal. In addition to traditional breeding to develop superior ornamental cultivars, this project plan also includes molecular genetic research to accelerate breeding of woody landscape plants by shortening the evaluation, selection, and release cycle. In total, ornamental research described in this plan will impact new cultivar development for crapemyrtle, hibiscus, begonia, butterfly ginger, Dichroa, redbud, fringe tree, and dogwood.