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Paul M. Lyrene

‘Emerald’ is a low-chill tetraploid southern highbush blueberry hybrid that is well adapted to northeast and central Florida and to other areas receiving similar winter chilling (100 to 400 h below 7 °C). Emerald produces a vigorous bush with stout, semierect canes. It has medium to good survival in the field in north Florida. In northeast Florida, ‘Emerald’ flowers from mid-January to mid-February and ripens from mid-April to mid-May. ‘Emerald’ is capable of producing high yields of berries that are large, firm, and medium-dark in color with a small, dry picking scar and good flavor.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Nine F1 hybrids produced by crossing seven tetraploid highbush blueberry cultivars with three tetraploid Vaccinium stamineum genotypes were backcrossed to an array of highbush blueberry cultivars to produce 2500 Backcross1 (BC1) seedlings. Thirty of the most vigorous BC1 plants were intercrossed in a greenhouse. Fertility of the BC1 plants was studied by examining their pollen at 250× and by determining the number of well-developed seeds per pollinated flower after the crosses. Percent well-formed microspores averaged 62.7% for BC1 plants compared with 30.9% for their F1 hybrid parents. Fruit set percentage was high from the BC1 intercrosses, with an average of 9.29 plump seeds per pollinated flower. The 2500 BC1 seedlings in the field were highly variable in vigor, but fewer than 10% were as vigorous as the median vigor of highbush × highbush seedlings. BC1 plants in the field averaged ≈1 month later ripening than highbush × highbush seedlings and berries averaged slightly smaller. Berry clusters were very loose compared with those of highbush. Berry flavor was highly variable from plant to plant, but the berries averaged less sweet and lower in acid than highbush berries. New flavor components not found in highbush seedlings were found in only a few BC1 seedlings. Fresh berries from BC1 plants made bright red juice when crushed in water, whereas berries from most highbush cultivars produced brown to yellow juice/water mixes. Although berry quality in the BC1 population averaged lower than in highbush seedlings, some plants had berry quality as high as typical cultivars. Because V. stamineum is highly drought-tolerant, cultivars bred using V. stamineum introgression could have improved upland adaptation.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Several hundred hybrid seedlings were produced by pollinating flowers of tetraploid highbush blueberry cultivars with pollen from 13 plants of Vaccinium stamineum that were selected as tetraploids following colchicine treatment. The hybrids were intermediate between the parents in many characteristics. They were less vigorous than the parents, but 46 plants flowered when 1.3 years old from seed. The F1 hybrids produced pollen abundantly, but only 30% of the microspores appeared potentially viable when viewed at 250X. F1 flowers that were pollinated with pollen from either parent taxon or with pollen from a different F1 hybrid produced thousands of well-developed seeds. The F1 hybrids were less successful when used as male parents in backcrosses to highbush, but 4790 well-developed seeds were obtained by pollinating 3250 highbush flowers. Flowers on F1 plants had long peduncles and pedicels, giving an open raceme. The flowers were open in the bud and had anther awns, two characteristics from V. stamineum. Berries on the F1 plants had black skins, and the ripe berries of 11 F1 plants had red to purple pulp like their V. stamineum parent. Berries on the hybrids were juicy. They had little or no bitterness typical of V. stamineum, and most had a pleasing balance of sugar and acid.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Breeding to adapt temperate-zone fruit to subtropical production areas has been a formidable objective because so many different characteristics have to be changed, most of which are controlled by many genes. Recurrent selection is the only breeding method that can accomplish the required wholesale reorganization of the physiology of the plant. The principles of recurrent selection, developed and tested using short-generation organisms like fruit flies, rats, and maize, have been applied to the development of low-chill highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum L.) and peach [Prunus persica (L.) Batsch.] cultivars for northern and central Florida. These principles include using many parents per generation of crosses, minimizing the time between cycles of selection, and selecting simultaneously for all heritable traits that are important in the final product, with traits of highest economic importance and highest heritability being given the highest weight in selecting parents. Many characteristics changed during the breeding of low-latitude peach and highbush blueberry cultivars, including chill requirement, photoperiod response, resistance to various disease and insect pests, fruit chemistry, and growth patterns during a long growing season.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Fertility and morphological traits were studied in the F1 and BC1 generations of intersectional crosses between tetraploid highbush blueberry cultivars (Vaccinium section Cyanococcus) and colchicine-induced tetraploid V. arboreum (Vaccinium section Batodendron). The goal of the introgression project was to combine desirable plant characteristics from V. arboreum with the large fruit and high fruit quality of highbush cultivars. Highbush × V. arboreum crosses were hard to make, but large numbers of BC1 seedlings were easily obtained using the most fertile F1 plants as parents in backcrosses to highbush. Anther awns, a character from V. arboreum, were present in all F1 seedlings, but fruit sclerids, another V. arboreum trait, were absent in most seedlings. Berry size in the BC1 generation was twice as large as in the F1 generation and was twice as large in the F1 as in V. arboreum. The BC1 generation was extremely variable in vigor and berry quality. Although berries of most BC1 plants were smaller, darker, and less desirable in texture and flavor than highbush berries, the high fertility of BC1 plants and the high variability among plants indicate that useful clones could be selected or developed by further breeding.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Over several years, we obtained no hybrids after pollinating thousands of flowers of cultivated tetraploid highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. hybrids, section Cyanococcus) with pollen from diploid V. arboreum Marshall (section Batodendron, sparkleberry), a drought-tolerant blueberry relative native in the southeastern United States. In an effort to produce tetraploid V. arboreum that could be crossed with highbush blueberry, more than 30,000 seeds were soaked in aqueous colchicine (0.1% to 0.2%) for 24 h or more. The seeds were germinated, and putative tetraploid plants (selected based on morphological characteristics) were grown long enough to obtain pollen for microscopic examination. Twelve selected seedlings that produced unusually large pollen tetrads were used as pollen parents in crosses with more than 40 different tetraploid highbush cultivars and advanced selections. Eighty-six crosses, in which a total of 17,968 flowers were pollinated, gave 1,569 plants that were verified as hybrids after one growing season in the field. Hybrids varied from very weak to quite vigorous, some equaling highbush cultivars in vigor. A few vigorous hybrids were male-sterile, but most had at least some pollen fertility. Of the most vigorous F1 hybrids, 12 of the most fertile, based on the amount of pollen shed and on the microscopic appearance of the pollen, were backcrossed to highbush cultivars, and 3919 backcross seedlings were obtained. These varied widely in vigor but averaged higher in vigor than their F1 interspecific hybrid parents.

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Paul M. Lyrene

Vigorous, upright shoots on mature V. ashei Reade cv. Aliceblue plants growing in a commercial field planting were used to study the effects of premature defoliation on flower bud formation. Three treatments (total shoot defoliation, alternate-node defoliation, and no defoliation) were applied on each of three dates (20 Aug., 17 Sept., and 15 Oct. 1987). For the August defoliation, the number of flower buds present per shoot on 6 Jan. of the following year averaged 1.3 for shoots that were totally defoliated, 3.7 for shoots on which alternate nodes had been defoliated, and 4.2 for control (nondefoliated) shoots. Shoots treated on 17 Sept. averaged 2.6 buds per shoot for total defoliation, 4.1 for alternate-node defoliation, and 4.8 for controls. Defoliation on 15 Oct. did not reduce flower bud formation. Reduction in flower bud formation due to defoliation was localized at the defoliated nodes. For shoots on which alternate nodes were defoliated on 20 Aug., 59.8% of the apical five nodes that were not defoliated produced flower buds compared with 1.4% of the defoliated nodes.

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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.