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ARS Research Helps Blueberry Growers

By Tara Weaver-Missick
September 14, 2000

Thanks to research accomplishments at the ARS Small Fruit Research Station in Poplarville, Miss., farmers from Mississippi and other Gulf Coast States have become a presence in the blueberry market.

The Poplarville station has released six new blueberry varieties to date, including Jubilee, Magnolia, Pearl River, Cooper and Gulfcoast, which are all available commercially. Biloxi, the newest blueberry, was recently released in honor of Biloxi, Mississippi’s 300th birthday.

Typically, southern blueberry growers are small farmers who net about $2,000 an acre. The total blueberry acreage in Mississippi is about 1,800 acres, and there are about 10,000 acres in the Gulf States region. Total U.S. production of fresh and processed blueberries in 1999 was 180.2 million pounds, valued at $156 million.

ARS researchers help these farmers by developing new varieties and improving cultural practices, pest control and postharvest handling.

ARS researchers are also investigating bee pollinators that may potentially help the Southeast’s blueberry production, given the lack of native blueberry pollinators.

The Osmia ribifloris bee, which is native to the western United States, is a promising pollinator. In its native range, the bee gathers pollen from manzanita, a shrub like tree with flowers that closely resemble those of blueberries. Poplarville researchers are developing strategies for growers to release and manage these bees.

ARS researchers have also undertaken a new project in which they are screening southern cultivated and wild berries, including blueberries, for theirresveratrol-producing potential. Preliminary evidence suggests resveratrol has anti-cancer properties and cardiovascular benefits.

ARS is the chief scientific agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The blueberry research in Mississippi is part of a nationwide program of horticulture research within ARS. For more information on ARS research programs that affect horticulture, see the list of "Crop Production, Product Value and Safety" national programs at

More information on this research appears in the September issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Scientific contact: James M. Spiers, ARS Small Fruits Research Laboratory, Poplarville, Miss.; phone (601) 795-8751, fax (601) 795-4965,