Progenies and clones of interspecific hybrid blueberries were evaluated for annual fraction of canopy volume (FCYV) and for difference in fraction of canopy volume between control and stressed plants [FCYV(C) - FCYV(S)] in a moderate water-deficit environment. The FCYV(C) - FCYV(S) data were used to determine combining ability effects. In addition, physiological processes of attached leaves of the clones were monitored with a portable photosynthesis apparatus. Specific combining ability (SCA) effects were significant for FCYV(C) - FCYV(S). The clone with the lowest mean for FCYV(C) - FCYV(S) was US75, a hybrid of Vaccinium darrowi Camp × V. corymbosum L. Clone JU64 (V. myrsinites Lamark × V. angustifolium Aiton) also had a low FCYV(C) - FCYV(S) mean, and its two progenies (JU64 × JU11 and G362 × JU64) had low progeny means. Stomatal conductance was lowered when blueberries were exposed to atmospheric and/or soil moisture stress that resulted in lower transpiration and photosynthesis and increased or equal water-use efficiencies (WUE). Blueberry plants adjusted to moisture stress as the season progressed by lowering stomatal conductance and increasing WUE. In particular, stressed plants of US75 and JU64 had equal or higher WUE values than control plants. US226 was the most drought-susceptible clone in the study, and its stomata did not appear to be as responsive to moisture stress as the other clones. Breeding for higher WUE in a dry environment appears possible with the germplasm used in this study.
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