FRUITING IN SOUTHERN HIGHBUSH BLUEBERRIES: POLLEN SOURCE AND HONEY BEE POLLINATION EFFICIENCY

in HortScience

`Gulfcoast' southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum × V. darrowi) plants were placed in 3 × 6 × 2.5 m net cages with one colony of honey bees per cage and one of three pollinizer treatments: “self (other `Gulfcoast' plants), “cross/highbush” (other southern highbush cultivars), or “cross/rabbiteye” (various rabbiteye blueberry cultivars). In addition to unlimited pollination, bee foraging was controlled on individual flowers by placing small bags over corollas after 0, 1, 5, or 10 visits. Fruit set, fruit weight, fruit development period, and seed number data were taken, as well as data to relate floral morphology to duration of bee foraging. All measures of fruiting increased significantly with increased bee visitation; the threshold for significant gains in production occurred between 1 and 5 visits. Ten visits generally provided a good approximation of unlimited pollination. Set, weight, and earliness of ripening was as good, or better, for fruit derived from rabbiteye pollen compared to fruit from self- or cross/highbush-pollination.

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