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
As part of a comprehensive, multi-disciplinary effort to advance mechanization technologies for southern highbush blueberries, (SCRI grant titled, "Advancing Blueberry Production Efficiency by Enabling Mechanical Harvest, Improving Fruit Quality and Safety, and Managing Emerging Diseases", Award No. 2008-51180-18579),we conducted horticultural and engineering experiments to identify barriers that stand in the way of machine-harvesting highbush blueberries for the fresh market. Novel genotypes having crispy-textured berries had less bruising during machine harvesting than genotypes with melting flesh. Dropping southern highbush blueberry fruit from two heights onto soft, hard, or slow-bounce surfaces showed the least amount of fruit bruising occurred when fruit dropped on padding materials with slow bounce response. Modifications to bush architecture that constrict the crown and spreading the fruit-bearing limbs outward reduced the amount of fruit falling onto the ground and increased plant productivity. The ADODR has monitored activities through emails and calls.