New Clemson Extension Agent Specializes in Small Fruit

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By Karla Arboleda

A new Extension agent at Clemson University will focus on production conditions that are ideal for small fruit. Bruce McLean, a commercial horticulture agent at the Pee Dee Research and Education Center (PDREC), previously worked with small fruits for six years at North Carolina State University Extension.

GRAPES AND BERRIES

McLean began his work with small fruits in South Carolina by referencing established breeding programs throughout the deep Southeast. While he started at Clemson in June 2019, he was initially motivated to research muscadine grapes, blueberries, blackberries and strawberries in South Carolina.

“South Carolina small fruit is just something that never really took a hold to a large degree,” McLean said.

Furthermore, while muscadine grape production continues to boom in different areas of South Carolina, McLean wants to focus on and take advantage of the ideal conditions for specialty crops like blueberries and blackberries.

“The (PDREC) has got tremendously good blueberry soils,” McLean said. “What I’m doing right now is … just trying to figure out the blueberry cultivars that would be really ideal for production here in South Carolina.”

EXTENSION COLLABORATION

With the help of Clemson Extension agents like Andy Rollins and Zack Snipes, who both work with small fruits in different regions, McLean is working to put together proposals and project opportunities to start in the new year.

“(We’re) trying to put together some varietal plots to where we can look at different selections across the state and see what may do best,” McLean said, referring to blueberry and muscadine grape production. “Once we start making some gains in those areas, (we) definitely want to expand it out to blackberries.”

Above all, the collaborating South Carolina Extension agents aim to have a strong small fruit program within the next five to seven years. McLean hopes his continued work with small fruit will have a positive impact for South Carolina agriculture.

“With small fruits, it’s been a passion that really has developed with me in the last years,” McLean said. “I saw a huge opportunity to really be able to promote that down here.”

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