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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Genetic Improvement and Virus Management of Small Fruit Crops

Location: Horticultural Crops Research

Title: Breeding highbush blueberry cultivars adapted to machine harvest for the fresh market

Authors
item Olmstead, J -
item Finn, Chad

Submitted to: HortTechnology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: March 30, 2014
Publication Date: June 1, 2014
Citation: Olmstead, J.W., Finn, C.E. 2014. Breeding highbush blueberry cultivars adapted to machine harvest for the fresh market. HortTechnology. 24(3):290-294.

Interpretive Summary: Blueberries are in very high demand by consumers and in order to keep their production and harvest cost-effective, growers are increasingly turning to machine harvest. While machine harvest has been predominantly used for the harvest of fruit destined for processing, presently machines are also being used to machine harvest for the fresh market with variable results. Blueberries have many characteristics (bush shape, good abscission zone, firm and round fruit) that make them more suited for machine harvest. Breeders are working to develop cultivars that combine all of the traits necessary for the machine harvest of high quality fruit that can survive through the fresh market shipping system. Progress in selecting for these traits has been made in existing highbush blueberry breeding programs, but will likely intensify as the need for cultivars suitable for machine harvest for the fresh market increases.

Technical Abstract: In recent years, world blueberry production has been split evenly between processing and fresh fruit markets. Machine harvest of highbush blueberry [northern highbush (NHB, Vaccinium corymbosum L.), southern highbush (SHB, Vaccinium corymbosum interspecific hybrids), and rabbiteye (RE, Vaccinium virgation Aiton.) has typically been utilized to obtain large volumes of fruit destined for processing. Due to financial and labor concerns, growers are interested in using machine harvesting for fruit destined to be fresh marketed. Bush architecture, harvest timing, loose fruit clusters, easy detachment of mature berries compared to immature berries, no stem retention, small stem scar, a persistent wax layer, and firm fruit, are breeding goals to develop cultivars amenable to machine harvest. Progress in selecting for these traits has been made in existing highbush blueberry breeding programs, but will likely intensify as the need for cultivars suitable for machine harvest for the fresh market increases.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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