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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Management of Temperate-Adapted Fruit, Nut, and Specialty Crop Genetic Resources and Associated Information

Location: National Clonal Germplasm Repository (Corvallis, Oregon)

Title: Luther Burbank's berries

Authors
item Hummer, Kim
item Finn, Chad
item Dossett, Michael -

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: May 3, 2013
Publication Date: August 1, 2013
Citation: Hummer, K.E., Finn, C.E., Dossett, M. 2013. Luther Burbank's berries. HortScience. Available: http://ashs.confex.com/ashs/2013/webprogram/Paper15229.html.

Interpretive Summary: Luther Burbank, the quintessential nurseryman of the early 20th century, remarked that small fruit was the “Cinderella of the pomological family.” He stated that while tree fruits had been improved to the point of an almost uncountable number of varieties, it was the time and responsibility of his generation and those to follow to develop the small fruit for human consumption. Burbank had a penchant for detecting potential qualities of unusual plants, and his broad association with plant explorers at the US Department of Agriculture and elsewhere allowed him to examine diverse wild berry species. He obtained seeds of many small fruit species from throughout the world. He made wide crosses within and between these genera and species. Burbank selected and named many varieties to be introduced through his nursery and elsewhere. He named and released about 40 blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, 4 grapes, and a hybrid tomato relative called ‘Sunberry’. He sometimes exaggerated their descriptions for promotion or public recognition. For example,‘Phenomenal’ was, he stated, “far superior in size, quality, color, and productivity… to ‘Loganberry’." Unfortunately, this cultivar was not a commercial success. Burbank made a few crosses and sold what he considered as improved species, e.g., ‘Himalayan Giant’ blackberry. He created new common names for foreign species, e.g., balloon berry and Mayberry (both Japanese species), to better market them. However, his amazingly keen observations of thornlessness, pigment diversity, and recognition of repeat flowering and fruiting in blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, was insightful of future industry. Burbank was a disciple of Darwin and his theory of natural selection. Burbank’s breeding approach to make wide crosses, produce large numbers of hybrid seedlings, choose significant seedlings with his traits of choice, and backcrossing to the desired parent for several generations was successful, even without knowledge of ploidy or gene recombination. Three of his blackberry cultivars (‘Burbank Thornless’, ‘Snowbank’, and ‘Phenomenal’) are preserved in the US Department of Agriculture, National Clonal Germplasm Repository, in Corvallis, Oregon.

Technical Abstract: Luther Burbank, the quintessential nurseryman of the early 20th century, remarked that small fruit was the “Cinderella of the pomological family.” He stated that while tree fruits had been improved to the point of an almost uncountable number of varieties, it was the time and responsibility of his generation and those to follow to develop the small fruit for human consumption. Burbank had a penchant for detecting potential qualities of unusual plants, and his broad association with plant explorers at the US Department of Agriculture and elsewhere allowed him to examine diverse wild berry species. He obtained seeds of many small fruit species from throughout the world. He made wide crosses within and between these genera and species. Burbank selected and named many varieties to be introduced through his nursery and elsewhere. He named and released about 40 blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, 4 grapes, and a hybrid Solanum called ‘Sunberry’. He sometimes exaggerated their descriptions for promotion or public recognition. For example, Rubus loganobaccus ‘Phenomenal’ was, he stated, “far superior in size, quality, color, and productivity… to ‘Loganberry’. Unfortunately, this cultivar was not a commercial success. Burbank made a few crosses and sold what he considered as improved species, e.g., ‘Himalayan Giant’ blackberry (R. armeniacus). He created new common names for foreign species, e.g., balloon berry (R. illecebrosus) and Mayberry (R. palmatus), to better market them. However, his amazingly keen observations of thornlessness, pigment diversity, and recognition of repeat flowering and fruiting in blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, was insightful of future industry. Burbank was a disciple of Darwin and his theory of natural selection. Burbank’s breeding approach to make wide crosses, produce large numbers of hybrid seedlings, choose significant seedlings with his traits of choice, and backcrossing to the desired parent for several generations was successful, even without knowledge of ploidy or gene recombination. Three of his Rubus cultivars (‘Burbank Thornless’, ‘Snowbank’, and ‘Phenomenal’) are preserved in the US Department of Agriculture, National Clonal Germplasm Repository, in Corvallis, Oregon.

Last Modified: 11/24/2014
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