Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: October 25, 2012
Publication Date: January 29, 2013
Citation: Stringer, S.J., Draper, A., Spiers, J., Marshall, D.A., Smith, B.J. 2013. "Pearl" southern highbush blueberry. HortScience. 48:130-131. Interpretive Summary: One of the primary objectives of the USDA Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory in Poplarville, MS is to develop new small fruit cultivars possessing adaptation to the gulf coast region of the U.S. Producers in this region require new blueberry cultivars that are vigorous and productive and possess attributes including early ripening, high quality fruit. Although rabbiteye blueberries are the primary type blueberry grown in the southeastern U.S., ‘Pearl’ is a “southern highbush” blueberry, essentially a northern highbush type that has been intercrossed with wild blueberries native to the south. This has provided new cultivars that have the appropriate chilling requirement for the regions, and possess other adaptation genes introgressed from the wild types. Among the more Important attributes of ‘Pearl’ are it’s very large light blue berries that are firm, have small picking scars, and excellent flavor, as well suitability for machine harvesting, and earliness for the lucrative fresh market.
Technical Abstract: ‘Pearl’ is a new southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium spp. hybrid) developed and released by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service. The new cultivar has several advantages for growers in the Southeastern U.S. over rabbiteye blueberry cultivars, the most widely grown blueberry in the region. Among these are earlier ripening period than the earliest rabbiteye blueberry cultivars, good yield potential, mechanical harvest ability, and very large berries with excellent fruit quality. These attributes enable producers to participate in the lucrative early U.S. fresh market where opportunities for marketing rabbiteye blueberries have diminished due to expanding acreage in the region and other states.