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Ebrahiem M. Babiker, Stephen J. Stringer, Barbara J. Smith and Hamidou F. Sakhanokho

Blueberry leaf rust caused by Thekopsora minima is a serious threat to blueberry production. To investigate the host range and characterize new sources of resistance, 15 southern highbush accessions (Vaccinium corymbosum), two interspecific hybrids (V. elliottii × V. pallidum and V. corymbosum × V. pallidum), and accessions from five diploid Vaccinium species were inoculated with an isolate of T. minima. Of 15, only two southern highbush accessions displayed resistance, whereas both accessions of V. arboreum displayed immunity against T. minima. Accessions of V. darrowii exhibited necrosis but with limited sporulation, indicating a high level of resistance. Sporulating lesions and brown spots were observed in accessions of V. elliottii and V. tenellum. Brown lesions, large pustules, and abundant sporulation were observed on V. pallidum accessions and their interspecific hybrids. As the lesions expanded, defoliation was observed in V. pallidum accessions. When tested against rabbiteye (V. virgatum) and southern highbush blueberries, urediniospores of T. minima from overwintering leaves of V. pallidum were found to be virulent, suggesting that T. minima overwinters on V. pallidum. Based on symptoms and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) of urediniospores, we hypothesize that V. elliottii, V. tenellum, V. pallidum, and V. corymbosum exhibit no host specificity to T. minima.

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Ebrahiem Babiker, Stephen J. Stringer, Hamidou F. Sakhanokho, John J. Adamczyk Jr. and Arlen D. Draper

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Ebrahiem M. Babiker, Stephen J. Stringer, Hamidou F. Sakhanokho, Barbara J. Smith and James J. Polashock

Species of Botryosphaeria and Neofusicoccum are major pathogens of blueberry worldwide. Accurate identification of these species is essential for developing effective management practices. A multigene sequencing strategy was used to distinguish between six isolates of stem blight pathogens collected from two different regions of the United States. The temperature growth study revealed that the optimal temperature for growth of five of the tested isolates ranged from 25 to 30 °C, although no significant difference was detected for the growth of Neofusicoccum spp. isolate SD16-86 at 20, 25, 30, and 35 °C. In vitro fungicide assays showed four fungicides, cyprodinil + fludioxonil, propiconazole, pyraclostrobin + boscalid, and azoxystrobin, were effective against the tested isolates with isolate SD16-86 being less sensitive compared with the other isolates. In a detached stem assay, none of 39 blueberry accessions displayed immunity or a high level of resistance to the two tested isolates, and no significant difference in lesion length was detected among the seven tested Vaccinium species inoculated with the two isolates.

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Stephen J. Stringer, Donna A. Shaw, Blair J. Sampson, Hamidou F. Sakhanoko, Ebrahiem Babiker, John J. Adamczyk Jr., Mark K. Ehlenfeldt and Arlen D. Draper

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R. Karina Gallardo, Qi Zhang, Michael Dossett, James J. Polashock, Cesar Rodriguez-Saona, Nicholi Vorsa, Patrick P. Edger, Hamid Ashrafi, Ebrahiem Babiker, Chad E. Finn and Massimo Iorizzo

Developing new blueberry cultivars requires plant breeders to be aware of current and emerging needs throughout the supply chain, from producer to consumer. Because breeding perennial crop plants (such as blueberry) is time- and resource-intensive, understanding and targeting priority traits is critical to enhancing the efficiency of breeding programs. This study assesses blueberry industry breeding priorities for fruit and plant quality traits based on a survey conducted at commodity group meetings across nine U.S. states and in British Columbia (Canada) between Nov. 2016 and Mar. 2017. In general, industry responses signaled that the most important trait cluster was fruit quality including the firmness, flavor, and shelf life. Fruit quality traits affect price premiums received by producers; influence consumer’s preferences; and have the potential to increase the feasibility of mechanical harvesting, all critical to the economic viability of the industry. There were differences across regions in the relative importance assigned to traits for disease resistance, arthropod resistance, and tolerance to abiotic stresses. Our findings will be useful to researchers seeking solutions for challenges to the North American blueberry industry including development of new cultivars with improved traits using accelerated DNA-based selection strategies.