The USDA blueberry breeding program was initiated in 1910 by Dr. F.V. Coville and has been continuous since that time. Plant breeders Drs. G.M. Darrow, D.H. Scott, J.N. Moore, and A.D. Draper have worked with SAES and private growers to develop the majority of cultivars presently grown for commercial production. In the South, major cooperators with the USDA include SAES in Arkansas, North Carolina, Georgia, and Texas. Recently the USDA Station at Poplarville MS, has been instrumental in blueberry cultivar development for the South. Rabbiteye blueberry cultivars make up the majority of blueberry acreage grown in the region. A new type of blueberry, the southern highbush (SHB), has been developed by interspecific hybridization with various Vaccinium species. Late-blooming SHB cultivars have been developed that offer better protection from spring frosts and ripen earlier than the earliest rabbiteye blueberry. Genes required to meet future needs reside within native Vaccinium species. Progress has been made in plant adaptation, disease resistance, fruit quality, and season of ripening. There remains a need for greater plant vigor, insect resistance, and consistent production.
A new southern highbush blueberry cultivar named `Camellia' was released in 2005 by The University of Georgia and the USDA–ARS. `Camellia' is a hybrid containing mostly Vaccinium corymbosum and a small amount of V. darrowi. The new cultivar was selected in 1996 at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga. from a cross of MS-122 × MS-6, and was tested as TH-621 in plantings at Alapaha, Ga. beginning in 1998. `Camellia' has an estimated chill requirement of 450 to 500 hours (<7 °C). It is an early- to mid-season cultivar, having berries that are large, with a very light blue color, and a small, dry picking scar. Berry firmness is good and flavor is very good. `Camellia' flowers 5 to 8 days after `Star' and `O'Neal' in south Georgia, and ripens 4 to 9 days after `Star', and with `O'Neal'. Plants are highly vigorous, with strong cane growth and an open, upright bush habit and a narrow crown. Yields have been similar to `Star' and greater than `O'Neal'. `Camellia' should be planted with other southern highbush blueberry cultivars with a similar time of bloom for cross-pollination (`Star' and `O'Neal' suggested). It is recommended on a trial basis at this time. `Camellia' requires a license to propagate. For licensing information and/or a list of licensed propagators, contact the Georgia Seed Development Commission, 2420 S. Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30606; or visit their website at www.gsdc.com.
Blueberries belong to the genus Vaccinium in the heath family Ericaceae. Several sections are agriculturally important, including Cyanococcus (true blueberries), Oxycoccus (cranberries), and Myrtillus (bilberries and whortleberries). Wild representatives of Oxycoccus and Myrtillus are found in both Europe and North America, while Cyanococcus is solely North American.
N-(3-methyl-2-butenyl)-1H-purin-6-amine (2iP) has been used to promote multiple shoot formation in previous tissue culture studies with ericaceous plants (1, 3-7). Fordham et al. (3), however, found that (E)-2-methyl-4-(1H-purin-6-ylamino)-2-buren-1-ol (zeatin) was the most effective cytokinin for stimulating shoot proliferation of cultured Exbury azalea (Rhododendron sp.). This study was conducted to determine if highbush blueberry is similar to Exbury azalea in its response to zeatin.
Released in 2004 by the University of Georgia and U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, `Vernon' is an early season rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei Reade), having large fruit size, good yields and excellent plant vigor. `Vernon', tested as T-584, was selected in 1990 at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga. from a cross of T-23 × T-260. `Vernon' fruit ripens early with the cultivar Climax in south Georgia, and few days before `Premier'; however, `Vernon' flowers 5 to 10 days after the standard cultivars. On average over a 6 year period, `Vernon' yielded 5.8 kg/plant per season, compared to 3.1 and 4.5 kg/plant for `Climax' and `Premier', respectively. Berry stem scar, color, firmness, and flavor of the new cultivar are good to excellent. Berry size of `Vernon' is considerably large, averaging 2.05 g/berry over 4 locations in 2003, compared to only an average weight of 1.56 g/berry for `Climax'. `Vernon' berries are firmer than `Premier'. Propagation of the new cultivar is easily accomplished from softwood cuttings. Chill hour requirement is estimated to be in the range of 500 to 550 hours (<7 °C). `Vernon' should be planted with other rabbiteye blueberry cultivars with a similar time of bloom to provide optimum pollination. Propagation rights are controlled by Georgia Seed Development Commission, 2420 S. Milledge Avenue, Athens, GA 30606 (for more information go to www.gsdc.com).