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  • 1 1U.S. DepartMent Of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Southern Horticultural Laboratory, Poplarville, Ms 39470
  • | 2 2Department of Biological Sciences, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg, MS 39426

Fruit splitting takes place in rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberries when a preharvest rainfall occurs and when fruit are fully ripe or approaching full ripeness. This study was initiated to develop a laboratory method to identify the rain-related incidence of splitting in cultivated blueberries. Multi-year field surveys of select rabbiteye and southern highbush cultivars show that the incidence of rain-related splitting is strongly cultivar dependent. Year to year variations within cultivars reflected yearly differences in ripening times and amounts and timing of rainfall. Laboratory values of forced splitting and field splitting data of three years show a strong correlation indicating that the incidence of fruit splitting can be accurately estimated by laboratory methods. Soaking the berries in distilled water 14 hours at room temperature gives a confident determination of splitting tendencies. Blueberry breeders can use this method to evaluate new potential blueberry cultivars for splitting tendencies. This laboratory method could also be used by geneticists to test selections accurately for splitting tendencies as part of routine screening. This can lead to a long-term goal of reducing splitting susceptible blueberries in commercial plantings.