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ASHS 2024 Annual Conference

 

Morning star: A New Cultivar Selected from Highbush Blueberry

Authors:
Li Wang College of Life and Health, Dalian University, No. 10 Xuefu Street, Dalian 116622, Liaoning, China

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Gui-Ting Liu College of Life and Health, Dalian University, No. 10 Xuefu Street, Dalian 116622, Liaoning, China

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He-Xin Wang College of Life and Health, Dalian University, No. 10 Xuefu Street, Dalian 116622, Liaoning, China; and Dalian Senmao Modern Agriculture Co., Ltd., Xinshi Village, Huajia Street, Dalian 116112, Liaoning, China

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Current breeding has resulted in the naming of Morning star, a new cultivar with distinctive characters from the northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). This follows our previously published cultivar, Senmao 7 (Xu et al. 2021). This cultivar is intended for the early-season fresh market, and is characterized by consistent early ripening, high yield, small and dry picking scar, medium firmness, good flavor, and a medium-blue color.

Cultivated highbush blueberries were first domesticated in the early 20th century (Bidani et al. 2017). Currently, the breeding of highbush blueberries has entered a phase of rapid development, with increasing popularity among consumers due to not only their delicious taste but also their exceptional health properties, including phenolics, antioxidants, vitamins, and high levels of minerals. These properties contribute to human health by suppressing certain types of cancers, preventing infections, and enhancing brain function to delay senescence. Blueberries (Vaccinium spp.) have become a major fruit crop worldwide (Strik 2007).

In China, the breeding and cultivation of commercial blueberries started in 2000, much later than in Western countries. Although blueberry research is relatively new, its development and commercial planting have been rapidly growing alongside economic development and changes in food consumption. By the end of 2020, the blueberry cultivation area in China reached 664 km2 with a total production of 347,200 t, of which ∼234,700 t were used for fresh consumption (Li et al. 2021); however, this production still falls short of meeting the rapidly increasing market demand. About nine countries worldwide have been exporting fresh blueberry fruits to China, and the total import volume has surged from 499 t in 2012 to 22,045 t in 2020, marking a 44-fold increase in just 8 years.

Despite the continuous expansion of blueberry planting areas in China, production has declined, and poor performance has emerged as a significant challenge hindering the development of the Chinese blueberry industry (Xu et al. 2021). Therefore, there is a pressing need to breed new cultivars that are specifically adapted to the local climate and align with the current developmental stage of the blueberry industry in China.

Origin

‘Morning star’ was selected from seedlings produced by open-pollination of ‘Big Bluegold’, a midseason maturing variety that was itself selected from seedlings of ‘Bluegold’, another midseason ripening cultivar (Hicklenton et al. 2004). In Jul 2010, H. Wang collected seed from ‘Big Bluegold’, which was planted in the blueberry germplasm repository of Dalian Senmao Modern Agriculture Co. Ltd. (Xinshi Village, Huajia Street, Jinzhou New Zone, Dalian). The seeds were germinated in Spring 2011, and the resulting seedlings were cultivated by the company, yielding 242 seedlings. These seedlings were later transferred to the experimental station of Dalian Pushilan Agricultural Technology Co., Ltd., in Spring 2012. The station, located in Liaoning Province in northern China, falls between latitudes 38°43′ to 43°26′ north and longitudes 118°53′ to 125°46′ east.

From 2012 to 2015, the seedlings were evaluated in the field, and fruit analysis performed on ripening. All evaluations were performed by G. Xu. Several seedlings demonstrated exceptional performance, and the most superior offspring was selected and designated as ‘Morning star’. In 2015, ‘Morning star’ was propagated through in vitro tissue culture. These in vitro–cultured seedlings were planted in the field in 2016, and the evaluation process began in 2019. In 4 years of assessing fruit and field performance, ‘Morning star’ exhibited early maturity, large fruit size, oblateness, good flavor, small and dry picking scar, and high yield in comparison with ‘Big Bluegold’ (Table 2). ‘Morning star’ demonstrated consistent performance over the course of these 4 years, particularly in terms of early ripening, which caters to the fresh market. ‘Morning star’ also allows easy cluster harvesting to meet consumer preferences and streamline the harvesting process. Thus, Morning star is well-suited as an early ripening cultivar for fresh consumption. Comprehensive evaluations of traits including plant morphology, fruit characteristics, and production, conducted over 3 years of continuous fieldwork from Jul 2019 to Jul 2022, demonstrated consistent and stable performance.

Description

In the context of this cultivar selection experiment, a randomized design with three blocks as repetitions was used to compare Morning star with Big Bluegold, with each block containing three plants. All the plants used in the experiment were obtained through in vitro propagation and were planted simultaneously, and consistent orchard management practices were practiced. Plants used for data collection were marked for experimental observation and evaluation. The yield of each plant and the fruit ripening dates from 2019 to 2022 were documented (Table 1). The yield of ‘Morning star’ was comparable to that of ‘Big Bluegold’, with the 50% ripening date ranging from 25 Jun to 30 Jun (with a mean of 27 Jun), whereas ‘Big Bluegold’ exhibited a 50% ripening date from 4 Jul to 13 Jul (with a mean of 7 Jul). Thus, ‘Morning star’ ripened significantly earlier, making it well-suited for the fresh market and granting it a roughly 10-day advantage over ‘Big Bluegold’.

Table 1.

Yield and fruit ripening dates of ’Morning star’ and ‘Big Bluegold’ (2019–22).

Table 1.

Fruit quality, encompassing berry weight, size, soluble solids, titratable acidity (% citric acid equivalent), firmness, and picking scar, were also evaluated during the 2019–22 period (Table 2). For each plant, 30 fruits were used to determine fruit quality attributes. Data showed that the berry weight of ‘Morning star’ surpassed that of ‘Big Bluegold’, with the former averaging 3.1 g and the latter 2.6 g. The maximum berry weight observed for ‘Morning star’ was 4.1 g (Fig. 1). A significant difference was seen in the berry sizes of the two cultivars. Specifically, the berry size of ‘Morning star’ measured 1.3 cm × 2.0 cm, whereas ‘Big Bluegold’ had dimensions of 1.4 cm × 1.7 cm. The fruit of ‘Morning star’ exhibited a flatter and rounder shape, coupled with a larger size (with the average transverse diameter of the fruit measuring 20 mm).

Table 2.

The attributes of fruit quality of ‘Morning star’ and ‘Big Bluegold’ (2019–22).

Table 2.
Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

Fruit of ‘Morning star’ northern highbush blueberry.

Citation: HortScience 58, 11; 10.21273/HORTSCI17378-23

Berry firmness quantified using the GY-4 Digital Fruit Sclerometer (Edburg Instruments Corp, Zhejiang, China), indicated that ‘Morning star’ exhibited greater firmness compared with ‘Big Bluegold’ (3.05 vs. 2.46 N). Furthermore, the picking scar of ‘Morning star’ proved to be smaller than that of ‘Big Bluegold’. When scored subjectively (with a higher score indicating a smaller scar), ‘Morning star’ outperformed ‘Big Bluegold’ (0.18 vs. 0.24 cm).

Soluble solids and titratable acidity were ascertained using the Pocket Brix Acidity Meter (Blueberry) (PAL-BXIACID7; Atago Corp., Tokyo, Japan). ‘Morning star’ exhibited higher soluble solids content than ‘Big Bluegold’ (11.9 vs. 11.2°Brix), whereas the titratable acidity levels were comparable (0.22% vs. 0.21% citric acid). The berries exhibited a medium-blue color when fully ripe.

‘Morning star’ embodies the key plant attributes needed for northern highbush blueberry production, displaying vigorous growth with a semiupright habit. The noteworthy characteristics of ‘Morning star’ include early ripening, consistent maturity, large to very large berries with small and dry picking scar, excellent flavor, and medium firmness. Consequently, ‘Morning star’ holds substantial potential commercial value for the local, early ripening, fresh fruit market.

Availability

‘Morning star’ was officially authorized by the National Forestry and Grassland Administration Bureau in May 2022, under Certificate number 20220023. This new cultivar is owned by Dalian Senmao Modern Agriculture Co., Ltd., based in Dalian, China. Propagation rights for ‘Morning star’ have been granted exclusively to Dalian Senmao Modern Agriculture Co., Ltd. Growers interested in obtaining propagules can inquire about the process by reaching out to H. Wang and G. Xu at Dalian Senmao Modern Agriculture Co., Ltd., located in Xinshi Village, Huajia Street, Jinzhou New District, Dalian. The genetic material of this new cultivar has been deposited at Dalian Senmao Modern Agriculture Co., Ltd., and is available for research purposes, including the development and commercialization of new cultivars.

References Cited

  • Bidani A, Hummer KE, Rowland LJ, Bassil NV. 2017. Development of an efficient DNA test for genetic identity confirmation in blueberry. Acta Hortic. 1180:363368. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1180.49.

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  • Hicklenton P, Forney C, Domytrak C. 2004. Row covers to delay or advance maturity in highbush blueberry. Small Fruits Rev. 3(1–2):169–181. https://doi.org/10.1300/J301v03n01_17.

  • Li YD, Pei JB, Li C, Sun HY. 2021. China blueberry industry report 2020. Jilin Nongye Daxue Xuebao. 1:18. https://doi.org/10.13327/j.jjlau.2021.1071.

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  • Strik BC. 2007. Horticultural practices of growing highbush blueberries in the ever-expanding US and global scene. J Am Pomol Soc. 61(3):148.

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    • Export Citation
  • Xu GH, Lei L, Wang HX. 2021. ‘Senmao 7’ Northern highbush blueberry. HortScience. 56(2):291292. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI15485-20.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Bidani A, Hummer KE, Rowland LJ, Bassil NV. 2017. Development of an efficient DNA test for genetic identity confirmation in blueberry. Acta Hortic. 1180:363368. https://doi.org/10.17660/ActaHortic.2017.1180.49.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Hicklenton P, Forney C, Domytrak C. 2004. Row covers to delay or advance maturity in highbush blueberry. Small Fruits Rev. 3(1–2):169–181. https://doi.org/10.1300/J301v03n01_17.

  • Li YD, Pei JB, Li C, Sun HY. 2021. China blueberry industry report 2020. Jilin Nongye Daxue Xuebao. 1:18. https://doi.org/10.13327/j.jjlau.2021.1071.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Strik BC. 2007. Horticultural practices of growing highbush blueberries in the ever-expanding US and global scene. J Am Pomol Soc. 61(3):148.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • Xu GH, Lei L, Wang HX. 2021. ‘Senmao 7’ Northern highbush blueberry. HortScience. 56(2):291292. https://doi.org/10.21273/HORTSCI15485-20.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
Li Wang College of Life and Health, Dalian University, No. 10 Xuefu Street, Dalian 116622, Liaoning, China

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Gui-Ting Liu College of Life and Health, Dalian University, No. 10 Xuefu Street, Dalian 116622, Liaoning, China

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He-Xin Wang College of Life and Health, Dalian University, No. 10 Xuefu Street, Dalian 116622, Liaoning, China; and Dalian Senmao Modern Agriculture Co., Ltd., Xinshi Village, Huajia Street, Dalian 116112, Liaoning, China

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Contributor Notes

L.W. and G.L. are co-first authors.

G.X. is the corresponding author. E-mail: xugh520@163.com.

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