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Evaluation of fruit quality traits in southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberries

Itle, R. A., NeSmith, D. S.
Acta horticulturae 2017 no.1180 pp. 393-400
Vaccinium corymbosum, Vaccinium darrowii, Vaccinium virgatum, blueberries, brix, cultivars, firmness, fructose, fruit quality, fruits, glucose, lignin, markets, physicochemical properties, sucrose, Georgia
The two main blueberry types grown in Georgia are southern highbush (species complex between Vaccinium corymbosum L. and V. darrowii Camp) and rabbiteye (V. virgatum Aiton). In 2014, both blueberry types accounted for over 44,400 metric tons in 6,475 ha, making Georgia the number two producer in the United States. Southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberries are rarely thought to have similar fruit quality characteristics, although there is a limited amount of information available on cultivars that are currently grown. The objective of this research was to examine physical and chemical fruit quality attributes of southern highbush and rabbiteye blueberry cultivars that currently compose the majority of the commercial blueberry market in Georgia. Seven southern highbush cultivars: 'Camellia', 'Emerald', 'Farthing', 'Legacy', 'Meadowlark', 'Rebel', and 'Star'; and seven rabbiteye cultivars: 'Alapaha', 'Brightwell', 'Ochlockonee', 'Powderblue', 'Premier', 'Tifblue', and 'Vernon' were grown and harvested at approximately 50% ripe at the University of Georgia Blueberry Research Farm near Alapaha, GA in 2014. Physical characteristics evaluated included: skin strength (puncture) and berry firmness (Kramer Shear). Chemical characteristics evaluated included: sugar profile and fiber (NDF and ADF). Overall, there was not a significant difference between highbush and rabbiteye blueberries for skin strength, however, rabbiteyes had firmer fruit than highbush blueberries (P‹0.05). For sugars, rabbiteyes were significantly higher than southern highbush for °Brix, sucrose, and total sugar. However, no significant differences were observed between types for glucose and fructose. For fiber, rabbiteyes were significantly higher than southern highbush for NDF, ADF, and lignin content. Results from this study will be compared with subsequent seasons to further understand these quality traits.