Blueberries have traditionally been propagated by softwood, semihardwood, or hardwood cuttings. Although plants can be produced at low cost, cuttings from some cultivars have low or very low rooting percentages, particularly when propagated from older, mature plants (Lyrene, 1981; Miller et al., 2004). Therefore, it may take several years to propagate and commercialize newly released cultivars so that significant acreage can be planted (Lyrene, 1980). In contrast, micropropagation has the potential to produce large numbers of plants more quickly than by rooted cuttings, and tissue culture plants can be produced throughout the year (Isutsa and Pritts, 1994; Miller et al., 2004).
Although changes in the growth habit of micropropagated Vaccinium and other small fruit crops have been reported, field performance evaluations of TC-derived plants are limited and results are variable and contradictory (Debnath, 2007). During the first 2 years of measurement, TC plants of half-highbush ‘Northblue’ (Vaccinium corymbosum L. × Vaccinium angustifolium Ait.) had significantly more lateral branching than SW plants (Grout et al., 1986; Read et al., 1988, 1989), whereas Albert et al. (2009) reported that ‘Northblue’ SW plants were taller and produced significantly more shoots than TC plants during the first two growing seasons. ‘Herbert’ TC highbush blueberry plants grew more vigorously and more uniformly than SW-derived plants during the first 3 years in the field (Litwiñczuk et al., 2005). However, in another study, propagation method did not have a significant effect in the number of shoots or plant size of 1-year-old highbush ‘Bluecrop’ (Smolarz and Chlebowska, 1997).
Because previous research had been done in temperate climates with much shorter growing seasons than those of Florida, our objective was to compare various vegetative growth traits of southern highbush blueberry cultivars obtained from TC and SW under Florida field conditions. Three commonly planted cultivars were assessed in production regions of Florida that differ primarily by the amount of winter chill accumulation.
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P values from analysis of variance for plant volume in 2010.
P values from analysis of variance for plant volume in 2011.