The University of Arkansas (UA)'s blueberries breeding programme was initiated in 1976 by James N. Moore (cover photo). This effort followed cultivar and crop evaluations in the early 1970s that provided information on the possibility of successfully growing blueberries in Arkansas.
From these evaluations, it was evident that selection for Arkansas soils and climate would improve the cultivar's adaptation for growers. From the beginning, the UA's breeding efforts had a strong collaboration with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The main scientists who collaborated with the USDA were Arlen Draper and Mark Ehlenfeldt.
Since the start of the programme, more than 500 selections have been made out of approximately 40,000 evaluated seedlings. The main objectives were adaptation to mineral soils (low in organic matter) and all seedlings were grown in sandy or loamy soils.
In addition, emphasis was placed on high fruit quality and plant resistance for the southern US area. 'Ozarkblue' was released in 1996 and is produced to a limited extent in Arkansas, but also in other areas of the world. Summit' was released jointly in 1998 by the University of Arkansas, North Carolina State University and the USDA.
A group of advanced selections with different maturity dates is under final evaluation for possible release. Seedling populations continue to combine a unique mix of species that contribute to adaptation, including Vaccinium atrococcum, V. darrowi and V. ashei in combination with V. corymbosum.
Recently, characterisation of the content of antioxidants and various individual nutraceutical compounds in various genotypes has been conducted.
In addition, post-harvest evaluations are routinely carried out.
Read the full article here: 'Southern Highbush blueberry breeding at the University of Arkansas'.