603 Phenology of Flowering and Leafing in Florida Cultivated Blueberries

in HortScience
Paul LyreneHorticultural Sciences Dept., Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611

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The best time to harvest fresh blueberries in Florida is 1 April to 15 May. Weather during this period is normally favorable for harvest: low rainfall, low humidity, warm, sunny days, and cool nights, and supplies of fresh blueberries from other producing areas are low. To ripen high-quality blueberries in April, the plants must flower in February and must have a full canopy of leaves to support the developing crop in March and April. Observations of thousands of blueberry seedlings and selections over the past 25 years in Florida have indicated that blooming and leafing time are affected by the chilling requirement and heat requirement of the variety and also by environmental factors. Factors that increase plant vigor (high soil fertility, ample moisture, and young plants) cause the plants to flower earlier in the spring. Flower buds that do not open by 15 Mar. in north Florida frequently abort. The timing and extent of this physiological bud abortion varies with cultivar. Some southern highbush cultivars leaf before they flower. Others flower before they leaf. The ideal blueberry variety for north Florida would have a very low chill requirement, a high heat requirement to prevent January flowering, and a short flowering-to-ripening interval.

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