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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Corvallis, Oregon » National Clonal Germplasm Repository » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #300423

Research Project: Management of Temperate-Adapted Fruit, Nut, and Specialty Crop Genetic Resources and Associated Information

Location: National Clonal Germplasm Repository

Title: Luther Burbank's best berries

Author
item Hummer, Kim
item DOSSETT, MICHAEL - Agriculture And Agri-Food Canada
item Finn, Chad

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/3/2013
Publication Date: 3/3/2015
Citation: Hummer, K.E., Dossett, M., Finn, C.E. 2015. Luther Burbank's best berries. HortScience. 50(2):205-210.

Interpretive Summary: Luther Burbank, the quintessential nurseryman of the early 20th century, remarked that small fruit was the “Cinderella of the pomological family.” He stated that while tree fruits had been improved to the point of an almost uncountable number of cultivars, it was the time and responsibility of his generation and those to follow to develop the small fruit for human consumption. Burbank had a penchant for detecting potential qualities of unusual plants and his broad association with plant explorers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and elsewhere allowed him to examine diverse wild berry species. He obtained seeds of many small fruit species from throughout the world. He made wide crosses within and between these genera and species. Burbank selected and named many cultivars to be introduced through his nursery and elsewhere. He named and released about 40 blackberries, raspberries and strawberries, four grapes, and a hybrid potato relative that he named ‘Sunberry’. He sometimes exaggerated their descriptions for promotion or public recognition. For example, the blackberry ‘Phenomenal’ was, he stated, “far superior in size, quality, color, and productivity…” to ‘Loganberry’. Unfortunately, this cultivar was not a commercial success. Burbank made a few crosses and sold what he considered to be improved species, e.g., ‘Himalaya Giant’ blackberry. He created new common names for foreign species, e.g., balloon berry and Mayberry, to better market them. However, his amazingly keen observations of thornlessness, pigment diversity, and recognition of repeat flowering and fruiting in blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, was insightful of the needs of future industry. Burbank was a disciple of Darwin and his theory of natural selection. Burbank’s classic breeding approach, to make wide crosses, produce large numbers of hybrid seedlings, choose significant seedlings with his traits of choice, and backcross to the desired parent for several generations, was successful, even though he did know of ploidy or gene recombination. Unfortunately, the ‘Himalaya blackberry’, now ubiquitous in hedgerows and fields throughout the Pacific Northwest in the United States, is designated as a federal noxious weed. While not presently in commercial production, three of his Rubus cultivars (‘Burbank Thornless’, ‘Snowbank’, and ‘Phenomenal’) are preserved in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Clonal Germplasm Repository, in Corvallis, OR.

Technical Abstract: Luther Burbank, the quintessential nurseryman of the early 20th century, remarked that small fruit was the “Cinderella of the pomological family.” He stated that while tree fruits had been improved to the point of an almost uncountable number of cultivars, it was the time and responsibility of his generation and those to follow to develop the small fruit for human consumption. Burbank had a penchant for detecting potential qualities of unusual plants and his broad association with plant explorers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and elsewhere allowed him to examine diverse wild berry species. He obtained seeds of many small fruit species from throughout the world. He made wide crosses within and between these genera and species. Burbank selected and named many cultivars to be introduced through his nursery and elsewhere. He named and released about 40 blackberries, raspberries (Rubus L.) and strawberries (Fragaria L.), four grapes (Vitis L.), and a hybrid Solanum hybrid that he named ‘Sunberry’. He sometimes exaggerated their descriptions for promotion or public recognition. For example, Rubus ×loganobaccus ‘Phenomenal’ was, he stated, “far superior in size, quality, color, and productivity…” to ‘Loganberry’. Unfortunately, this cultivar was not a commercial success. Burbank made a few crosses and sold what he considered to be improved species, e.g., ‘Himalaya Giant’ blackberry (R. armeniacus). He created new common names for foreign species, e.g., balloon berry (R. illecebrosus) and Mayberry (R. palmatus), to better market them. However, his amazingly keen observations of thornlessness, pigment diversity, and recognition of repeat flowering and fruiting in blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries, was insightful of the needs of future industry. Burbank was a disciple of Darwin and his theory of natural selection. Burbank’s classic breeding approach, to make wide crosses, produce large numbers of hybrid seedlings, choose significant seedlings with his traits of choice, and backcross to the desired parent for several generations, was successful, even though he did know of ploidy or gene recombination. Unfortunately, the ‘Himalaya blackberry’, now ubiquitous in hedgerows and fields throughout the Pacific Northwest in the United States, is designated as a federal noxious weed. While not presently in commercial production, three of his Rubus cultivars (‘Burbank Thornless’, ‘Snowbank’, and ‘Phenomenal’) are preserved in the U.S. Department of Agriculture, National Clonal Germplasm Repository, in Corvallis, OR.