Blueberry Field Day Aims to Increase Grower Competitiveness

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New varieties were a hot topic at the Florida Blueberry Growers Association’s (FBGA) spring field day. The event was held on March 7 at the University of Florida (UF) Plant Science Research and Education Unit in Citra. Ryan Atwood, a blueberry grower and vice president of the FBGA, says new varieties from UF will make Florida blueberries more competitive in the marketplace.

The FBGA has two annual meetings, the spring field day and a fall trade show. Atwood says the spring field day is a great event for growers to get updates on the latest blueberry research from UF. The presentations on the new varieties help the growers make decisions regarding future plantings.

“As a grower, you’re always looking at using the best varieties. You always want to be more competitive,” Atwood says. The blueberry industry continues to face heavy competition from other countries, such as Mexico. New varieties may be the start to making Florida even more competitive in the global marketplace. “You’re always trying to be the most productive while reducing costs,” Atwood adds.

Patricio Munoz, assistant professor of blueberry breeding at UF, discussed new varieties coming out of the blueberry breeding program. Munoz says the main goal of the program is to develop cultivars that will help growers be more productive and competitive.

An important aspect of these new varieties is their potential for mechanical harvesting. For example, Indigocrisp™ is a candidate for machine harvesting due to traits like fruit firmness. Blueberries are highly labor intensive, making it difficult to compete with countries like Mexico, where labor availability is much higher than in the United States. Mechanical harvesters could be a solution to that problem, but the varieties must be prime candidates to withstand the rough nature of the equipment.

Keep an eye out for details on the FBGA’s fall trade show on the association’s website.

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Dan Cooper

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