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ARS Releases New Blackberry Cultivars

By David Elstein
October 2, 2003

Growers have started putting in their orders for newly released cultivars of flavorful blackberries that have been bred by the Agricultural Research Service.

Geneticist Chad E. Finn led the cultivar development research at the ARS Horticultural Crops Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Ore. Finn recently released five blackberry cultivars--two for the fresh market and three for processing.

The fresh market cultivars ripen very early, are firm and have excellent flavor. The processing cultivars are thornless, an essential characteristic for berries that will be machine-harvested and processed. In addition, the fruit quality of these cultivars is excellent when the fruit are processed, typically by freezing.

The crosses that were made to develop these new blackberries were done in the late 1980s and early 1990s, but the genetic foundation for this program is based on more than 80 years of breeding by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Oregon. After the first breeding cross is made, it takes many years of selecting the best plants and testing them to find out which have the desired traits and, most importantly, taste delicious.

Each berry crop--whether strawberry, blackberry, raspberry or blueberry--and the intended market (fresh or processed) has its own group of critical characteristics. A range of ripening seasons and good shipping characteristics are critical for the fresh market. Intense color and flavor, high acidity, high sugar levels and ability to withstand machine harvest are critical for berries for the processing market.

Read more about this research in the October issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is USDA's chief scientific research agency.