1a. Objectives (from AD-416)
To improve production efficiency and product quality of early season highbush blueberries in the southeastern United States by addressing genetic, horticultural, engineering, pathological, postharvest, and marketing challenges associated with mechanical fruit harvesting.
1b. Approach (from AD-416)
Evaluate all aspects associated with mechanical harvestability using plantings of 4 or 5 advanced selections/cultivars from GA, NC, and FL blueberry breeding programs near Gainesville, FL and Tifton, GA. Evaluate trellis and crown restriction treatments to reduce ground loss and improve harvest efficiency.
3. Progress Report
The purpose of this project was to develop a comprehensive interdisciplinary effort to overcome genetic, horticultural, engineering barriers that stand in the way of elevating the overall production efficiency of rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberries to remain economically viable and sustainable. Six southern highbush cultivars were machine harvested to determine their postharvest fruit quality, ground loss percentage, and fruit detachment characteristics. The ADODR has monitored activities through emails and calls. Crown plugs were installed on rabbiteye blueberry plants to open the canopy and harvested with a Korvan 8000 blueberry harvester. Ground loss was reduced with the plug treatment compared to no plug.