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Title: Developing native Vaccinium crops and cultivars

item Barney, Danny

Submitted to: ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/27/2011
Publication Date: 1/1/2012
Citation: Barney, D.L. 2012. Developing native Vaccinium crops and cultivars. ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annual Meeting Abstracts. 67742.html.

Interpretive Summary: Several native blueberry relatives presently harvested from the wild have potential for domestication, largely involving the selection of superior wild germplasm and the development of cultivars that produce high yields of commercial-quality fruits from horticulturally desirable plants. Details will be provided on the development of advanced selections of mountain huckleberries, as well as preliminary work with other closely related species. The emphasis will be on germplam evaluation and cultivar development using conventional cross pollination, followed by progeny evaluations, selections, and testing.

Technical Abstract: Vaccinium species have long been harvested from the wild. Breeding and cultivar development, however, did not begin until about 1911 in New Jersey with efforts to commercially cultivate northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum). Cultivar development spread to cranberry (V. macrocarpon) and rabbiteye blueberry (V. virgatum). Although lowbush blueberry cultivars were developed and the crop is grown commercially in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, growers prefer to produce crops using wild seedlings of Vaccinium angustifolium. Other wild Vaccinium species native to eastern North America are used to improve the crops just mentioned. Vaccinium species native to western North America, Europe, and Asia are harvested from the wild but few are yet domesticated. Cultivation of ohelo (V. reticulatum) is just beginning in Hawaii and ‘Kilauea’ was released in 2010. At least five other species appear to have potential for breeding. Alpine bilberry (V. uliginosum) has been studied in northern Europe since the mid 1970s and attempts have been made to breed it and hybridize it with northern highbush blueberries. While those efforts have not yet resulted in a commercial industry, interest remains strong in cultivating alpine bilberry in Alaska. European blueberry (V. myrtillus) is widely harvested from the wild in northern Europe and is also native to North America. It has, so far, defied attempts to cultivate it. Progress domesticating European blueberry, as well as mountain huckleberry (V. membranaceum), oval-leaved bilberry (V. ovalifolium), and cascade huckleberry (V. deliciosum) has been reported. Other North American Vaccinium species with good prospects for cultivar development include dwarf huckleberry (V. caespitosum), evergreen huckleberry (V. ovatum), and red huckleberry (V. parvifolium). Priorities and practices in selection and breeding are described.