Alabama’s blueberry acreage has tripled over the last decade. When considering to grow blueberries, proper cultivar selection is one of the first, and perhaps the most, important decisions a grower can make. When selecting a cultivar, some of the first things to consider are the intended markets, the proper marketing strategy, local climate, cultivar season of ripening, berry quality, and the method of harvest. These factors will determine the desired vegetative, flowering, and fruiting characteristics of the blueberry cultivar to consider.
The University of Georgia blueberry breeding program has accelerated development of blueberry varieties in the past 15 years. As a result, two new early-season, large-fruited rabbiteye blueberry cultivars, ‘Krewer’ and ‘Titan‘ (figure 1a and figure 1b), were recently released. Other new cultivars, such as the USDA-developed ‘Pink Lemonade’ (figure 2.), also need to be tested for their vegetative growth and cropping potential in Alabama conditions.
Research on these cultivars and others show that the total yield per plant in 2021 was the highest for ‘Ochlockonee’ blueberry cultivars, averaging 8.3 lbs/plant (figure 3). ‘Tifblue’ and ‘Powderblue’ also had a good crop of 7.3 lbs/plant, followed by ‘Krewer’ with 5.9 lbs/plant. The yield of ‘Titan’ and ‘Pink Lemonade’ was 1.0 and 0.9 lbs/plant, respectively. ‘Krewer’ produced the largest berry size of 2.8 g on average, followed by ‘Titan’ with a mean berry size of 2.5 g.
The berry sweetness for all studied cultivars except ‘Titan’ was lower in 2021 (table 1.), possibly due to the frequent rain events this summer. ‘Titan’ bushes grew a relatively low number of berries, which allowed the fruit to accumulate more sugars due to the reduced competition.
Table 1. Soluble Solids Content of Selected Blueberry Cultivars
|Cultivar||Brix, %, 2020||Brix, %, 2021|