By Ashley Robinson
New blueberry varieties, management strategies and industry updates were all hot topics at the Florida Blueberry Growers Association’s (FBGA) spring field day. The sold-out event was held on March 10 at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Plant Science Research and Education Unit (PSREU) in Citra.
BLUEBERRY BREEDING GRANT
Patricio Munoz, assistant professor of blueberry breeding at UF, began the morning by providing attendees with an overview of the new Specialty Crop Research Initiative blueberry grant. Munoz was granted part of a $12.8 million, multistate research grant to broaden the nation’s blueberry breeding capabilities.
The purpose of this grant is to seek improved taste, aroma and yield, among other blueberry traits. Munoz believes better overall fruit satisfaction can increase purchasing frequency and benefit all stakeholders involved in the production and consumption of blueberries.
TRIALS AND TOURS
Growers and other attendees had the opportunity to visit two different sites during the field day. They visited the blueberry variety planting trials located onsite at the PSREU and toured Straughn Farms in Waldo.
Jeff Williamson and Gerardo Nunez of the UF/IFAS Horticultural Sciences Department showed two of their current experimental trials at the PSREU. The first trial looked at the use of Sparkleberry as a potential blueberry rootstock. Although initial yields were reduced by grafting in the original plantings, the grafted plants proved to have comparable or higher yields than own-rooted plants after the fourth year. The second trial focused on determining the optimum nitrogen fertilization rates for mature blueberry plantations.
Attendees also heard from Doug Phillips, blueberry Extension coordinator, during the PSREU tour as he introduced some of the new varieties being planted onsite.
At Straughn Farms, growers got a firsthand look at the container production research trials as well as the hydrogen cyanamide trials. During the hydrogen cyanamide trial tour, attendees saw how the classified plant growth regulator can offer certain benefits to some cultivars.
The FBGA has two annual meetings, the spring field day and a fall trade show. Growers should keep an eye out for details on the FBGA’s fall trade show on the association’s website. Stay tuned to VSCNews.com for additional reports from the spring field day.
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