Agricultural Research Service (ARS) geneticist Chad Finn and his colleagues at the Horticultural Crops Research Unit in Corvallis, Oregon, developed two new berry varieties—a blueberry and a blackberry—that were recently released to the public.
Up until the early 1900s, blueberries were picked from the wild, and the bushes often did not survive when transplanted elsewhere. True domestication-involving propagation of the plant by the grower and plant breeding to improve desirable traits-was beyond reach until 1910. That’s when USDA botanist Frederick Coville discovered that blueberry bushes require moist, acidic soil to thrive. In 1916, exactly a century ago, the first commercial cultivated crop of highbush blueberries was harvested.
That history is now enhanced by Baby Blues, a cultivar released in cooperation with the Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station and the Washington State University’s Agricultural Research Center. This new blueberry is making its debut during the 100th anniversary of the first cultivated blueberry crop to go to market.
“Baby Blues is a vigorous, high-yielding, small-fruited, machine-harvestable highbush blueberry with outstanding fruit quality. It’s well-suited for those processing markets that require a small fruit size,” says Finn. “Baby Blues should offer growers and processors an alternative to the low-yielding Rubel highbush blueberry, and it may thrive in milder areas where northern highbush blueberries are grown.”
Finn also developed a new blackberry named Columbia Giant. This thornless, trailing blackberry cultivar came from the same breeding program as Baby Blues and was also released in cooperation with the Oregon State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station.
“This cultivar is a high-quality, high-yielding, machine-harvestable blackberry with firm, sweet fruit that, when processed, is similar to or better in quality than fruit from the industry standards Marion and Black Diamond,” says Finn. “Due to its extremely large size, however, Columbia Giant will most commonly be sold in the fresh market.”
Columbia Giant is adaptable to areas where other trailing blackberries successfully grow.—BySharon Durham, ARS Office of Communications.