Submitted to: Acta Horticulturae
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/15/2001
Publication Date: 4/1/2002
Citation: Noffsinger, S.L., Stringer, S.J., Spiers, J.M. 2002. Growth and spread of blueberry cultivars in a 14 year old collection. Acta Horticulturae. 574:165-169
Interpretive Summary: Blueberry varieties with reduced plant height, upright growth habit, and narrow plant diameter would be useful for reducing pruning requirements and improving ease of hand and machine harvest. Twenty-one rabbiteye and six southern highbush accessions were planted March 6, 1985 in southern Mississippi, and were not pruned for fourteen years. In July 1999,data was collected for plant height, bush diameter within the row, bush diameter perpendicular to the row, and upright vs. spreading growth. Most accessions attained heights greater than 90 inches, which is less than ideal for hand and machine harvesting. MS75, MS81, Sharpblue, Climax, Flordablue, and Premier maintained row and perpendicular bush diameters which were better for machine harvesting and reducing pruning requirements. Avonblue, Beckyblue, Delite, Flordablue, Sharpblue, and Tifblue had the most upright growth. Considerable variation in plant height was found previously by University of Florida scientists for rabbiteye blueberry. With this in mind and the potential benefits, selection for short plant stature has been incorporated into the breeding program at the USDA-ARS Small Fruits Research Station. Plant height will be of less concern in southern highbush until plant vigor is improved.
Technical Abstract: Blueberry cultivars with reduced plant height and non-spreading, upright growth habit would be useful for reducing pruning requirements and improving ease of hand and machine harvest. Twenty-one rabbiteye cultivars and six southern highbush cultivars and selections were planted on March 6, 1985 in southern Mississippi, and were not pruned for fourteen years. Data was collected for plant height, bush spread within the row, and bush spread perpendicular to the row in July 1999. Cultivars were also visually rated for upright vs. prostrate growth habit. Most cultivars attained heights greater than 225 cm, which is a less than ideal stature for hand and machine harvesting. MS75, MS81, 'Sharpblue', 'Climax', 'Flordablue', and 'Premier', maintained row and perpendicular bush widths which were better for machine harvesting and reducing pruning requirements. 'Avonblue', 'Beckyblue', 'Delite', 'Flordablue', 'Sharpblue', and 'Tifblue' had the most upright growth habit. Implications for management and breeding are discussed.