New blueberry variety shows promise for expanding production in Louisiana

Linda Benedict, Johnson, Charles E.  |  10/7/2009 11:37:44 PM

Blueberry production contributes to the local economies of several Louisiana communities, particularly in the northwest and southeast areas of the state. In 1997, blueberry production added $1.5 million to the state’s economy. More than 500 acres of blueberries are grown in the state, and this acreage has been increasing in the last five years. The most widely grown variety is called Rabbiteye. It produces a high quality fruit marketable from mid-June to mid-July.

A new variety called Southern Highbush, however, shows promise for the state. It is a hybrid of Rabbiteye and Northern Highbush, a popular variety grown in Michigan, the No. 1 blueberry-producing state. We are conducting research on Southern Highbush in an effort to help its introduction here. If accepted, it will expand the growing season and thus the market. The Southern Highbush matures early and is available in early May. It blooms late, which improves its chances of escaping late spring frosts.

For more than 60 years, blueberry growers have realized that cross-pollination is necessary for good marketable yield. The blueberry flower is not designed for efficient self-pollination. To enhance pollination, every fourth row of blueberry bushes must be a different variety. Our research focuses on optimizing cross-pollination.

Charles E. Johnson, Professor, and Yuehe Huang, Post-Doctoral Researcher, Department of Horticulture, LSU Agricultural Center, Baton Rouge, La

(This article was published in the winter 1999 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)

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