The USDA blueberry breeding program was initiated in 1910 by Dr. F.V. Coville and has been continuous since that time. Plant breeders Drs. G.M. Darrow, D.H. Scott, J.N. Moore, and A.D. Draper have worked with SAES and private growers to develop the majority of cultivars presently grown for commercial production. In the South, major cooperators with the USDA include SAES in Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. Recently the USDA Station at Poplarville MS, has been instrumental in blueberry cultivar development for the South. Rabbiteye blueberry cultivars make up the majority of blueberry acreage grown in the region. A new type of blueberry, the southern highbush (SHB), has been developed by interspecific hybridization with various Vaccinium species. Late-blooming SHB cultivars have been developed that offer better protection from spring frosts and ripen earlier than the earliest rabbiteye blueberry. Genes required to meet future needs reside within native Vaccinium species. Progress has been made in plant adaptation, disease resistance, fruit quality, and season of ripening. There remains a need for greater plant vigor, insect resistance, and consistent production.
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