Two of the most efficient ways to help growers through breeding are to reduce production costs and increase yield, says Patricio Munoz, an assistant professor of blueberry breeding at the University of Florida (UF).
To help reduce the cost of blueberry production, Munoz says breeders want to develop cultivars that are resistant to pests and diseases. He says this helps the grower not have to focus so much on disease and pest management in the field.
Looking long-term, Munoz says the UF breeding program is focusing on cultivars with characteristics for the ability to be machine harvested, due to the decrease in the availability of domestic agricultural labor.
By using breeding to increase yield, Munoz says researchers focus on timing. “It’s not just about yield, it’s actually yield at the right time,” he says. If researchers do not get the right window of time early in the harvesting season with the cultivars, they are not helping the grower, Munoz explains.
Munoz began working as a blueberry breeder in 2004 for a private company, before coming to UF as a faculty member in 2013. “I understand very well that the producer, at the end of the day, has a business to maintain. So in order to maintain that business, they need to make profit,” he says.
According to Munoz, it is important to produce cultivars for high-quality blueberries. He says it is key to get the berries to be the right size, have a good flavor and a good presentation.
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