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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Research Project: Improvement and Evaluation for Blueberry Germplasm

Location: Southern Horticultural Research

2012 Annual Report

1a. Objectives (from AD-416):
Evaluate genetically enhanced germplasm for cultivated blueberries. Emphasis will be directed toward cultural and climatic adaptability for the southern United States, increased winter hardiness, extension of harvest season, and potential for mechanical harvesting.

1b. Approach (from AD-416):
Distribute blueberry selections developed for specific cooperator locations. Existing selections planted at cooperator locations in Texas will be screened for improved characteristics. Evaluation of advanced selections and cultural practices will be contributed at these locations.

3. Progress Report:
Blueberry germplasm plots survived the worst heat and drought in Texas history. The university's research plots are located about six miles west of Nacogdoches, TX, and comprise about 1.5 acres of blueberry germplasm in the 70 acres of Mill Creek Blueberry Farm, a commercial enterprise. The plots have been maintained since 1987 and contain a very wide assortment of varieties, selections and numbered genotypes. To make matters worse this past year, the 8-acre spring-fed lake dried up and streams that have flowed continuously into the lake quit flowing, a first in this region’s history according to the old timers and Nacogdoches weather records since 1910. Before two wells could come on line, the entire field suffered with significant dieback and stress. Plants accustomed to 8 gallons per day were cut to 1-2 gallons per day. This lasted a month in the summer of 2011, the worst year on record. In addition, September and October were devastatingly dry and rains did not return until November and December but in spite of this hardship, most plants survived. 2012 has been kinder with some widely spaced rains. The 1.5-acre research plot is alive and well and suffered less than 5% mortality across the field. This plot is irrigated by NetaFim ram line with in-line emitters spaced every 18” and has performed well for 15 years. In the past year, however, we suffered incessant critter damage: thirsty coyotes, rabbits, squirrels, bobcats, wild hogs and other varmints made life tedious here. Future work here includes: 1)Removing dead plants, 2)Cutting out dead wood, 3) Weed control, 4) Re-mulching needed areas, 5) Irrigation checkup, and 6) Remapping the collection. A highlight of the past year was the naming of MS 108 as ‘Earlibirdblue’, a southern highbush with characteristics that include shorter stature, good foliage, early ripening berries, and a consistent crop since 1991. Detractions include a scar problem and tart flavor unless berries are allowed to ripen a few extra days. This cultivar was released as a homeowner berry. A new blueberry release between the University and USDA was submitted to be published in the Earlibirdblue in Cultivar Registration List 46 HortScience.

4. Accomplishments

Last Modified: 10/20/2017
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