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Mark K. Ehlenfeldt, Elizabeth L. Ogden, Lisa J. Rowland, and Bryan Vinyard

The midwinter cold hardiness of 25 rabbiteye (V. ashei) blueberry cultivars was assayed across 2 years using a shoot freezing assay. LT50values (i.e. temperature at which 50% of buds are damaged) for the cultivars ranged from –24.9 °C for `Pearl River' (a 50% V. ashei derivative) to –13.7 °C for `Chaucer'. Under New Jersey conditions, numerous cultivars were observed to exhibit dimorphism for dormant floral bud size. Comparisons of bud dimorphism with LT50 values, found dimorphism more common in cultivars with lower floral bud hardiness. LT50 values generally supported empirical observations of winter hardiness, but exceptions suggest that additional factors contribute to observed winter hardiness under field conditions.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Variation was studied within and among five Vaccinium taxa for the flower parameters corolla length, corolla aperture diameter, stigma location relative to the apex of the corolla tube, position of the anthers relative to the stigma and to the apex of the corolla, and style length. The objective was to determine whether there was enough genetic variation to breed cultivars with flower shapes that might favor pollination by a wider range of bee species. The taxa studied were cultivated rabbiteye (V. ashei Reade), cultivated southern highbush (mainly V. corymbosum L. with up to 30% introgression from V. darrowi Camp), F1 V. ashei × V. constablaei A. Gray hybrids, V. darrowi, and V. elliottii Chapm. Vaccinium elliottii flowers differed from all others in having short styles that were not exserted from the corolla tube. Vaccinium elliottii was also unusual in that the end of the anther tube extended nearly to the stigmatic surface. Vaccinium ashei corollas were longer and had smaller apertures than those of southern highbush, possibly making them less suitable for honeybee (Apis) pollination. For corolla length and aperture diameter, F1 V. ashei × V. constablaei hybrids were similar to southern highbush, indicating that V. constablaei introgression could be used to breed hexaploid cultivars with shorter, more open flowers. Large clone-to-clone variation within taxa for each flower characteristic indicates much potential for changing the shape of the blueberry flower by breeding, if the shape that maximizes fruit set can be determined.

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Rajeev Arora, Lisa J. Rowland, Elizabeth L. Ogden, Anik L. Dhanaraj, Calin O. Marian, Mark K. Ehlenfeldt, and Bryan Vinyard

Loss of freeze tolerance, or deacclimation, is an integral part of winter survival in woody perennials because untimely mid-winter or spring thaws followed by a hard freeze can cause severe injury to dehardened tissues. This study was undertaken to investigate deacclimation kinetics, particularly the timing and speed, of five blueberry (Vaccinium L.) cultivars (`Bluecrop', `Weymouth', `Ozarkblue', `Tifblue', and `Legacy'), with different germplasm compositions and mid-winter bud hardiness levels, in response to an environmentally controlled temperature regime. Based upon bud cold hardiness evaluations in 2000 and 2001, `Tifblue', a Vaccinium ashei Reade cultivar, was one of the least hardy and the fastest to deacclimate; `Bluecrop', a predominantly V. corymbosum L. cultivar, was the most hardy and the slowest to deacclimate; and `Ozarkblue', a predominantly V. corymbosum cultivar but including southern species V. darrowi Camp. and V. ashei, was intermediate in speed of deacclimation. `Weymouth' (predominantly V. corymbosum) and `Legacy' (73.4% V. corymbosum and 25% V. darrowi) were slow to intermediate deacclimators. Deacclimation rates did not correlate strictly with mid-winter bud hardiness. Data suggest that the southern germplasm component V. ashei may be responsible for the observed faster deacclimation whereas both southern species, V. darrowi and V. ashei, may contribute genes for cold sensitivity. Strong positive correlations between stage of bud opening and bud cold hardiness existed in both years (r = 0.90 and 0.82 in 2000 and 2001 study, respectively). Previously identified major blueberry dehydrins, 65-, 60-, and 14-kDa, progressively decreased in their abundance during incremental dehardening in `Bluecrop', `Weymouth', and `Tifblue'. However, down-regulation of the 14-kDa dehydrin most closely mirrored the loss in cold hardiness during deacclimation, and, therefore, may be involved in regulation of bud dehardening. Because differences in deacclimation rate were clearly evident among the genotypes studied, rate of deacclimation of the flower buds of blueberry should be an important consideration in breeding to improve winter survival.

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John R. Clark, David Creech, Max E. Austin, M.E. “Butch” Ferree, Paul Lyrene, Mike Mainland, Don Makus, Liz Neuendorff, Kim Patten, and James M. Spiers

Highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum L.), rabbiteye (V. ashei Reade), and southern highbush (Vaccinium spp.) blueberries grown at seven locations in six southern states were sampled in 1988 and 1989 to determine foliar elemental levels among blueberry cultivars and types. Across locations, elemental levels of N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu, and Al were similar for highbush and southern highbush types. Rabbiteye elemental levels were different from highbush and southern highbush for N, P, K, Ca, S, Mn, Cu, and Al. Rabbiteye blueberries appear to have different foliar levels, and may require species-specific standards for nutritional monitoring of plantings.

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J.B. Magee and C.L. Gupton

The organic acid composition of blueberries of three highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum) cultivars, three rabbiteye (V. ashei cultivars and nine southern highbush (V. corymbosun hybrids) cultivars or selections was determined by HPLC. Species means off the individual acids (citric, malic, succinic, and quinic), expressed as a percentage of total acid, formed profiles or patterns that are thought to be characteristic of the species. Citric (75%) was the predominant acid in highbush fruit with lesser percentages of succinic (13%), quinic (9.6%), and malic (2.7%). The percent composition of rabbiteye berries [quinic (49%), succinic (39%), citric (6.7%), malic (5%)] was distinctly different from highbush. The acid profile of southern highbush fruit reflected their V. corymbosum heritage with an acid profile similar to that of highbush. When related to a clone's pedigree, these results suggest that organic acid profiles may be a useful screening tool for studying the contribution of southeastern native species such as V. darrowi or V. ashei to the inheritance of organic acids.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Genetic variation was surveyed within and among 5 Vaccinium species and several hybrid taxa for 6 aspects of flower size and shape. Sufficient variation was found to allow radical changes in flower architecture through breeding. The goal is a flower that pours pollen directly from the anthers onto the stigma without the assistance of pollinating insects. The flowers of V. elliottii had very short styles (mean in mm 5.3 compared to 10.2 for rabbiteye cultivars and 8.5 for highbush cultivars), and certain short-style recombinants from highbush cultivar × V. elliottii crosses came close to the desired positioning of stigmas relative to anthers. The distance (in mm) from the anther pore to the stigma averaged: V. ashei 2.7; V. corymbosum 2.4; V. darrowi 2.3; and V. elliottii 1.0. Compared to highbush cultivars, rabbiteye cultivars tended to have long corollas and narrow corolla apertures, two features believed to be related to poor honeybee pollination. These features were much more favorable in V. ashei × V. constablaei hybrids, with values averaging close to those for highbush cultivars.

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Charles Mainland

Mechanized harvest for processing markets has become commercially accepted for blackberries (Rubus sp.), highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), lowbush (V. angustifolium) and rabbiteye (V. ashei), blueberries, cranberries (V. macrocarpon), grapes (Vitus labruscana, V. vinifera, V. rotundifolia, V. sp.), raspberries (Rubus ideaus) and to a lesser extent for strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa). Fruit bruising during harvest and sorting often contributes to reduced “eye appeal” and keeping quality for fresh sales. Highbush and rabbiteye blueberries are successfully machine harvested for fresh markets, however, high temperature and rain will often make product quality unacceptable. Highbush blueberries grown in cool climates and rabbiteye blueberries with greater inherent resistance to bruising have most consistently given acceptable quality. Cultivar improvement and equipment that causes less bruising during harvest and sorting will be required for increased mechanization for fresh markets. Mechanical pruning of blackberries, blueberries, grapes and raspberries can reduce costs by up to 80%. The audience will be involved in discussion of advancements in mechanization techniques.

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Charles Mainland

Mechanized harvest for processing markets has become commercially accepted for blackberries (Rubus sp.), highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), lowbush (V. angustifolium) and rabbiteye (V. ashei), blueberries, cranberries (V. macrocarpon), grapes (Vitus labruscana, V. vinifera, V. rotundifolia, V. sp.), raspberries (Rubus ideaus) and to a lesser extent for strawberries (Fragaria × ananassa). Fruit bruising during harvest and sorting often contributes to reduced “eye appeal” and keeping quality for fresh sales. Highbush and rabbiteye blueberries are successfully machine harvested for fresh markets, however, high temperature and rain will often make product quality unacceptable. Highbush blueberries grown in cool climates and rabbiteye blueberries with greater inherent resistance to bruising have most consistently given acceptable quality. Cultivar improvement and equipment that causes less bruising during harvest and sorting will be required for increased mechanization for fresh markets. Mechanical pruning of blackberries, blueberries, grapes and raspberries can reduce costs by up to 80%. The audience will be involved in discussion of advancements in mechanization techniques.

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J.B. Magee, B.J. Smith, C.E. Gupton, and J.M. Spiers

The southern highbush (Vaccinium mostly corymbosum) blueberry cultivars Jubilee, Magnolia, and Pearl River, released by the USDA in 1994, were compared with `Premier' and `Climax', two widely planted rabbiteye (V. ashei) cultivars, on the basis of flowering and harvest dates, yield, and physical and chemical quality parameters. The southern highbush cultivars flowered later and ripened at least 1 week before `Climax', one of the earliest rabbiteyes. `Pearl River' berries had less waxy “bloom” and appeared almost black when fully ripe; they had significantly less anthocyanins than the other cultivars compared. `Premier' was lower in titratable acidity and higher in sugars than the southern highbush cultivars. Although data analysis indicated statistical differences in glucose and fructose concentrations among the other four cultivars, these differences were not pronounced. Based on the quality factors used in this study, the southern highbush cultivars compared acceptably to the rabbiteye cultivars.

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J.R. Clark, D. Creech, M.E. Austin, M.E. Ferree, P. Lyrene, M. Mainland, D. Makus, L. Neuendorff, K. Patten, and J. Spiers

Highbush (Vaccinium corvmbosum L.) rabbiteye (V. ashei Reade) and southern highbush (Vaccinium spp.) blueberries grown at seven locations in six southern states were sampled in 1988 and 1989 to determine foliar elemental levels among blueberry cultivars and types. Across locations, elemental levels of N, P, K, Ca, Mg, S, Fe, Mn, Zn, Cu and Al were similar for highbush and southern highbush types. Rabbiteye elemental levels were different from highbush and southern highbush for N, P, K, Ca, S, Mn, Cu and Al. The findings indicate that similar standard foliar levels can be used for highbush and southern highbush blueberries in determining nutritional status of plantings by foliar analysis. Rabbiteye blueberries appear to have different foliar levels, and may require species-specific standards for nutritional monitoring of plantings.