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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Poplarville, Mississippi » Southern Horticultural Research Unit » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #399933

Research Project: Blueberry and Woody Ornamental Plant Improvement in the Southeast United States

Location: Southern Horticultural Research Unit

Title: 'USDA-Spiers' rabbiteye blueberry

item Stringer, Stephen
item DRAPER, ARLEN - US Department Of Agriculture (USDA)
item Babiker, Ebrahiem
item Sampson, Blair
item Sakhanokho, Hamidou

Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/16/2023
Publication Date: 2/16/2023
Citation: Stringer, S.J., Draper, A.D., Babiker, E.M., Sampson, B.J., Sakhanokho, H.F. 2023. 'USDA-Spiers' rabbiteye blueberry. HortScience. 58(3):338–340.

Interpretive Summary: Productive, early ripening blueberry cultivars are desirable for producers participating in local and regional fresh berry markets. 'USDA-Spiers' is a new public-domain blueberry with early ripening, very firm, light blue, medium to large berries. It is an interspecifi-hybid rabbiteye blueberry involving crosses among several species including Vaccinium virgatum, V. constablaei, V. darowwi, and V. tenellum. It is recommended for production along the U.S. gulf coast and other regions where earlier ripening rabbiteye blueberries are grown.

Technical Abstract: U*SDA-Spiers’ is a new hexaploid blueberry (Vaccinium hybrid ) developed by the United States Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service and resulted from crosses among diverse blueberry germplasm and species including V. virgatum (rabbiteye blueberry) with V. constablei, V. corymbosum, V. darrowwii, V. tenellum. ‘USDA-Spiers’ has several advantages for blueberry growers in the Southeastern U.S. Among these are early ripening period, a compressed plant architecture in comparison to rabbiteye blueberry cultivars, high yield potential, and very large firm berries having excellent flavor. Blueberries, particularly the native rabbiteye blueberry, have been grown commercially in the Southeastern U.S. for over a century. ‘USDA-Spiers’, tested as MS 794, is compact and productive rabbiteye blueberry plant with dark green foliage and a moderately spreading growth habit, narrow crowns, and a flower and leaf bud development chilling requirement of 400 – 450 hrs. This consistently productive and early ripening new fresh market cultivar produces very large, attractive, light blue and very firm berries with excellent flavor and dry picking- scars. It also produces relatively long racemes (Figure 2) that result in multiple berries being presented on the bush’s periphery. Periodic pruning of lateral branches on mature bushes may be necessary to accommodate mechanical harvest, but since berries are primarily presented on the outside the plant’s canopy, they are easily hand harvested. ‘Spiers’s early ripening berries mature along with those of ‘Climax’ and both being widely grown for their early ripening fruit. Its consistent productivity and berry quality attributes are expected to provide early ripening fruit and very large and firm flavorful berries for growers in the Southeastern U.S., especially along the U.S. gulf-coast, enhanced opportunities to compete in the lucrative fresh berry market. Because the degree of self-fertility of ‘Spiers’ is unknown, it is recommended to be planted with early blooming rabbiteye blueberry cultivars with similar bloom period to optimize cross pollination and good fruit set.