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W.A. Erb, A.D. Draper and H. J. Swartz

The relationship between moisture stress and mineral soil tolerance was studied by placing 10 blueberry (Vaccinium) clones in a Berryland sand soil high in organic matter (Berryland) and a Galestown sandy clay loam soil (Galestown) and subjecting them to one of two moisture regimes. The Berryland and Galestown soils represent an excellent blueberry soil and a mineral soil, respectively. A moderate degree of water stress influenced biomass partitioning in blueberries in a similar manner as stress induced by culture on mineral soil. Berryland control plants on Berryland partitioned more biomass into leaves and produced more dry matter and leaf area than plants on Galestown or those moisture stressed. Net assimilation rate and relative growth rate were not significantly different between soil or moisture treatments. The primary reason for the reduction in absolute growth rate due to soil type or moisture stress was a significantly lower leaf area duration on Galestown soil and in-moisture stressed plants. Clones differed in instantaneous transpiration, leaf conductance, and apparent photosynthesis and the ability to partition biomass into various plant parts. By selecting for increased leafiness, a high photosynthetic rate, and a more energy efficient root system, improvement in mineral soil tolerance should be possible.

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W.A. Erb, A.D. Draper and H.J. Swartz

Interspecific blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) progenies were examined to determine combining abilities and genetic variability for seedling root system size and shoot vigor and to establish whether a large root system is correlated with good growth when plants are grown on a mineral soil and exposed to a moderate soil water deficit. General combining ability (GCA) variance components for root system size and shoot vigor and specific combining ability variance components for shoot vigor were significant. US226, a tetraploid hybrid of V. myrtilloides Michaux × V. atrococcum Heller, had the highest GCA effect for root system size and the lowest GCA effect for shoot vigor. US75 (V. darrowi Camp × V. corymbosum L.) had the highest GCA effect for shoot vigor and was second in GCA effect for root system size. Comparison of the crosses containing G111 (V. corymbosum) with those containing G362 (V. corymbosum) indicates that selecting for the best V. corymbosum clone to start a breeding program seems as important as selecting the mineral soil-adapted parent. Root system ratings were highly correlated with total dry weight of field-grown plants (r = 0.89). The method used in this study to evaluate seedlings for root system size and shoot vigor could be used to eliminate the less vigorous plants from a population before field planting and to evaluate mineral soil adaptability.

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W.A. Erb, A.D. Draper and H.J. Swartz

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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S.J. Stringer, J.M. Spiers and A.D. Draper

Two new southern highbush blueberry cultivars, `Dixieblue' and `Gupton', will provide growers with new blueberry cultivars having excellent fruit quality that ripen relatively early in the season, during the profitable early fresh-market window. Berries of `Dixieblue' are light blue, medium in size, and their flat shape makes them most attractive. `Gupton' is very productive and berry quality is also excellent. The performance of these cultivars represent an improvement over most currently available southern highbush blueberry cultivars due to 1) their durability and performance on both upland and sandy soils endemic to the Gulf Coast and 2) consistent production of high quality fruit that will meet the demand for early ripening fresh-market blueberries. The new rabbiteye blueberry cultivar, `DeSoto', represents an improvement over currently available rabbiteye blueberry cultivars for late-season production. `DeSoto' produces medium-to-large fruit having excellent color, flavor, and firmness Plants of `DeSoto' are productive, vigorous but semi-dwarf, upright and spreading. It's semi-dwarf growth habit, which is unique among currently grown rabbiteye blueberries, results in bushes that attain a maximum height of about 2 meters upon maturity, reducing the necessity of top-pruning that is required for all other cultivars. `DeSoto' blooms two to three weeks later than early-to-mid season cultivars such as `Climax' and `Tifblue', providing insurance against late-spring freezes. Similarly, its fruit mature 21 to 14 days or more, respectively after these same cultivars. `DeSoto' will provide niche market blueberry growers with a new cultivar having productivity, plant vigor, fruit quality, and very late ripening period that will extend their marketing season. The new evergreen ornamental blueberry, `Native Blue', is low growing, compact and finely branched with small glaucous leaves, traits that are quite typical of V. darowii. `Native Blue' has beautiful foliage that changes color in different seasons. Mature leaves are darker green while newer growth exhibits a light pinkish hue that changes to a bluish green. Other desirable characteristics of `Native Blue' are its dwarf growth habit, hardy and vigorous growth, and its capacity for a high level of fruit production that serves as an attractant to birds and other wildlife. `Native Blue' will provide southeastern U.S. nurserymen, landscapers, and homeowners with a novel and beautiful new ornamental shrub that will complement plantings of azaleas, camellias, crepe myrtles, etc.

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M.K. Ehlenfeldt, A.D. Draper and J.R. Clark

In the 1970s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began developing low-chill-adapted highbush blueberry (Vacchizium corymbosum L.) for the southern United States (lat. 29° to 32°N) by using germplasm of the native southern species, V. darrowi Camp. This breeding work resulted in the release of several low-chill southern highbush blueberry (SHB) cultivars in the mid-1980s. These cultivars have been evaluated for yield and adaptation at several locations through the southern regional blueberry germplasm evaluation trials. These trials have shown that organic mulch is required for good performance of SHB. The one-fourth V. darrowi composition of SHB cultivars presents problems of freeze damage at some locations. This problem may be resolved by breeding cultivars through several alternative approaches.

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C. L. Gupton, J. M. Spiers and A. D. Draper

Eight clones with various Vaccinium species in their background were evaluated to determine their potential for improving fruit characteristics in the southern highbush blueberry. One clone was crossed with each of the others to produce seven sets of progenies which were evaluated with the parent clones. Heritability estimates were computed as the regression of progeny on parental means for each character. The progenies ranged from small to average berry size and weight, were above average for picking scar, and were generally less than average for color, firmness, and flavor. Mean of progenies was not significantly different from the parental mean for any character. Very high (0.45-0.85) heritability estimates were found for each character except berry firmness (0.22). These results suggest that considerable improvement in each character except possibly berry firmness should result from phenotypic recurrent selection in a broad based population involving these parents.

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S.L. Noffsinger, A.D. Draper and C.L. Gupton

Although southern highbush (Vaccinium sp.) is replacing rabbiteye (Vaccinium ashei L.) blueberry, rabbiteye will continue to be grown on marginal soils of the southeastern United States. Dwarfism or short, compact growth habit is a trait that could be used to reduce labor costs in rabbiteye blueberry production. Parental backgrounds, and flowering and fruit traits were studied in seven Mississippi (MS) and five Georgia (T) selections. Six of the MS selections are available for propagation and bloom late enough that cold damage should not be a problem. Four (MS63, MS454, MS546, MS891) of the six have acceptable fruit quality and will be used in breeding. Ethel and MS134 were the only known dwarf ancestors, with Ethel, Myers, Black Giant, and Tifblue (Ethel × Clara) dominating the parental background. Based on the variation in growth habit and ancestries, it would appear that Ethel has several genes for dwarfism and multiple allelic interactions are involved, similar to what Garvey and Lyrene found (1987). Future breeding will include crosses of MS63, MS454, MS546, and MS891 with germplasm outside of the common ancestors, to broaden the genetic base of the dwarf rabbiteyes.

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J.R. Ballington, C.M. Mainland, S.D. Duke, A.D. Draper and G.J. Galletta

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J.R. Ballington', C.M. Mainland, S.D. Rooks, A.D. Draper and G.J. Galletta

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J.F. Hancock, K. Haghighi, S.L. Krebs, J.A. Flore and A.D. Draper

Seven highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) cultivars were evaluated for their photosynthetic heat stability. Ail showed significant reductions in CO2 assimilation rates (A) as leaf temperatures were raised from 20 to 30C, although `Blue-crop', `Jersey', `Elliot', and `Rubel' (22% to - 27%) were significantly less affected than Spartan', `Bluejay', and `Patriot' (-41% to -51%). To determine whether temperature adaptations of highbush types can be broadened through hybridization with native, heat-tolerant species, `Bluecrop' was crossed with the V. darrowi Camp. selection Florida 4B, and F2, BC1, and BC2, populations were generated. This approach showed promise as genotypes were identified in all the derivative populations that were more heat tolerant than `Bluecrop' and had a high A.