UF Blueberry Breeding Program Updates

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By Karla Arboleda

The University of Florida (UF) Blueberry Breeding and Genomics Lab recently released a new cultivar and is aiming to improve harvesting technology.

Blueberry breeders look for the best quality traits in the small fruit, including yield and taste. Patricio Muñoz, an assistant professor and blueberry breeder at UF, discussed updates from the breeding program.

COLOSSUS CULTIVAR

“In 2019, we released a new cultivar called Colossus and, as the name (implies), it’s a jumbo-sized berry,” Muñoz explained, adding that its large size is not its only positive trait. “It’s so firm and it stands very well on the bush, so you can delay harvest, and that gives flexibility to the producers.”

Additionally, the new blueberry promotes improved taste. A main goal of the breeding program is to keep Florida blueberry growers in a competitive market by selecting cultivars based on their flavor.

Colossus blueberries are notable for their higher quality juice the longer one waits to harvest them.

“You can sell the fruit as premium fruit because of these characteristics,” Muñoz said. “We will keep working on flavor because as a consumer … I (would) want them to be the best, and that prompts me to go to the supermarket and buy more.”

TECHNOLOGY IMPROVEMENTS

While there are no new technologies in place to help harvest blueberries, researchers are working to improve existing harvesting techniques.

“We have been telling (growers) for the future to decrease costs to stay competitive, and that’s why the program has been focusing so much on machine harvesting,” Muñoz said. “Whenever the technology changes, regarding machines, that’s going to be a huge jump in capacity for the fresh market.”

Machines used to harvest blueberries currently operate in a way that could damage the fruit if it is not strong in quality. “There’s still opportunity to do better,” Muñoz said.

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