Dr. Steve Stringer - 2021 Outstanding Fruit Cultivar Award
6/1/2021 - Research Geneticist (Plants) Dr. Steve Stringer, located at the Thad Cochran Southern Horticultural Laboratory, in Poplarville, MS, is the recipient of the 2021 Outstanding Fruit Cultivar Award by the American Society of Horticultural Science (ASHS) Fruit Breeding Professional Interest Group. Steve, as well as his ARS colleagues James M. Spears, Arlen D. Draper, and Creighton L. Gupton, will receive medals from the ASHS for their public release of blueberry cultivar ‘Biloxi’.
Biloxi was released in 1998 and was grown predominately in southern Arkansas, southern Mississippi, southern Georgia and central Florida. It provided the opportunity for growers to harvest fruit 7 to 14 days prior to the earliest maturing rabbiteye cultivars, the predominant early market cultivar.
‘Biloxi’ has proven to shine not only in the US, but all over the world. Being a non-patented, open market release, growers in Mexico soon discovered its most valuable attribute - that it required very few to no chill hours to bloom. This meant that it could be taken to the Southern Hemisphere with its temperate climate and the cultivar would produce fruit from November to March, precisely when there were no blueberries being grown in the U.S. This created an entirely new industry in Mexico, and in 2012 there were 1,500 hectares planted and 3,500 metric tons of blueberries produced, with the Biloxi blueberry showing the best results out of the non-patented varieties. https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2012/03/29/mexico-set-for-Biloxi-blueberry-growth/*
In Peru ‘Biloxi’ plantings are expanding exponentially. The Peruvian blueberry association ProArandanos explained that the Peruvian blueberry industry has grown explosively over the last decade. "A decade ago people didn't think it was possible to grow blueberries in Peru, and now it's the world's leading exporter." ‘Biloxi’ remains the predominant variety in the Peruvian blueberry industry. At the end of 2019, there were around 11,000 hectares of blueberries planted in Peru. This figure is expected to grow to 13,000 by the end of this year, and potentially 15,000 in two years, depending on market conditions and the level of investment by companies. https://www.freshfruitportal.com/news/2020/07/20/peruvian-blueberry-massive-lift-in-blueberry-exports/*
The sheer numbers of the Biloxi plantings are the strongest evidence of its importance. When one considers the Southern Hemisphere plantings alone the number of hectares are estimated to be more than 13,000 hectares. Knowing there are approximately 5,000 plants per hectare that would mean 65 million plants.
Biloxi was most certainly the single most important contributor to the expansion of the southern highbush blueberry production in the Southern Hemisphere. It allowed growers in Peru, Mexico and Columbia to supply blueberries to the U.S. market from November to March, when there were no local fresh berries. In addition, Mexico has also been able to expand their exports to Japan, Canada and the U.K.
Plantings of Biloxi have been expanded to Morocco, Spain and South Africa, with good success. It is still grown in the southeastern parts of the U.S., as well as in California. In these areas Biloxi is normally ripe by May 15th. The market period of May 15th is still profitable for growers in these regions, 23 years after its release.
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