Honey-bee-mediated Cross- versus Self-pollination of `Sharpblue' Blueberry Increases Fruit Size and Hastens Ripening

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

To study self- and cross-pollination effects on fruit development in southern highbush (mainly Vaccinium corymbosum L.) blueberries, `Sharpblue' plants were caged with honey bees (Apis mellifera L.) and other `Sharpblue' or `Gulfcoast' plants at anthesis. Ratios of pollinizer: fruiting flowers ranged from 2.1 to 4.5. Cross-pollination increased fruit size by ≈14% and seed count by 27% but did not influence fruit set. Overall, seed count decreased by 58% during the 30 days of harvest, but this did not directly affect fruit size. Seed count appeared to influence earliness of ripening as much as it influenced fruit size. Cross-pollination increased the harvest percentage of early-ripening fruits by ≈140% and of premium market fruits (those ≥ 0.75 g) by 13% and decreased the percentage of small fruits by 66%. Consequently, a 43% increase in premium early market crop value (nearly $5000/ha) resulted from optimizing `Sharpblue' cross-pollination.

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