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- Author or Editor: Paul M. Lyrene x
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.
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.
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.
The effects of environmental factors, including chilling duration during dormancy and temperature during flower bud expansion, were studied on the following blueberry 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. Flowers on plants that were chilled over 1400 hours differed little from those that received only 310 chill units. Flowers that developed under warmer temperatures had significantly wider corolla apertures. In one experiment but not the other, corolla length and style length increased under warmer temperatures. For nearly every parameter in each of three experiments, there were significant environment × clone interactions. Overall, however, it appeared that neither lack of chill units during dormancy nor warm temperatures during flower development changed flower morphology enough to affect fruit set.
‘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.
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.
Vaccinium stamineum (deerberry) is a highly variable diploid species in section Polycodium. Deerberry is native on excessively drained sandy soils from southeastern Ontario, south through the Florida peninsula to Lake Okeechobee, west to eastern Texas and southeastern Kansas. The V. stamineum used in this study were tall plants (2–4 m) native in north Florida, with a plant architecture similar to rabbiteye blueberry (V. virgatum). Starting in 2013 with crosses between tetraploid highbush cultivars (section Cyanococcus) and colchicine-doubled V. stamineum, hundreds of F1 and thousands of later-generation seedlings were grown and evaluated in high-density field nurseries at Citra in North Florida. The populations studied included F1, F2, backcrosses to each parent species, and BC1 × BC1 seedlings. The goal of the study was to assess the feasibility of introgressing into highbush blueberry cultivars desirable traits from V. stamineum (drought tolerance, red-flesh berries, new flavor components, open flowers with short corolla cups and exserted anthers and stigmas) without introducing horticulturally problematic characteristics (bitter skin, berries that shatter when ripe, difficult vegetative propagation). Vigor averaged very low in F1 seedlings, higher in F2 seedlings and in seedlings from backcrosses to V. stamineum, and highest in seedlings from backcrosses to highbush. Most crosses yielded numerous plump seeds, but crosses to produce F1 hybrids yielded fewer than 10% as many seeds as highbush × highbush crosses. Most vegetative, flower, and fruit traits that differentiate highbush from V. stamineum were intermediate in F1 seedlings. Backcross seedlings more closely resembled the recurrent parent. Variability in morphological characters was high in every generation, giving much opportunity for selection. Some seedlings from backcrosses to highbush (≈5%) appeared to have the vigor, berry quality, and yield potential required in commercial cultivars. Producing highbush cultivars that strongly express a particular V. stamineum trait might best be accomplished by growing large, segregating F2 populations from which parents for backcrosses can be selected.
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.