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by Amanda McWhirt, Elena Garcia, Taunya Ernst, and Matthew Bean - March 23, 2018
The blueberry variety trial at the Fruit Research Station, Clarksville AR, in the
summer of 2017.Photo: Amanda McWhirt
A four-year blueberry variety trial was conducted in Clarksville, Arkansas at the
University of Arkansas Fruit Research Station, yield data was collected between 2014
The four year averages for first budbreak, first and last harvest dates and yield
per acre or hectare (ha) for each cultivar are reported in Table 1. The average harvested
yield, berry weight, and soluble solids for individual years are shown in Table 2.
XYield per acre was determined based on a planting of 5 feet between plants and 12
feet between rows (871 plants per acre)yThe number of reps varied for each cultivar due to plant death1Cultivar had 4 reps2Cultivar had 3 reps3Cultivar had 2 reps
The average bud break data and first and last harvest dates is only useful for comparing
when different varieties break bud and ripen relative to each other. In any given
year average bud break for the evaluated varieties ranged from mid-February to late
March. First and last harvest dates for each cultivar also varied by 10-14 days between
each year of the four years of the study.
In the charts below letters within the same column indicate statistical differences
The majority of the cultivars performed well. The cultivars; Columbus, Ochlockonee,
and Ozark Blue had the highest yields on average, with yields per acre averaging from
5,200-7,200 lbs. per acre (Table 1). By contrast Pamlico, did not stand out with only
an average harvest fruit yield of 2,200 lbs. per acre. When year to year harvest
data per plot (g) are evaluated, Columbus, Ochlockonee, and Ozark Blue genotypes again
showed to have the best performance on a year by year basis with the addition of Camellia
For berry size Camellia, and Ozark Blue both consistently had the largest berry size.
Alapaha and Pamlico were varieties that had smaller berries (Table 2).
The fruit flavor characteristics Lenoir and Ochlockonee ranked high for soluble solids
(Brix) a measure of fruit sweetness (Table 2). Ozark Blue tended to have lower ratings
for sweetness.z In the charts below letters within the same column indicate statistical differences
at p<0.05y The number of reps varied for each cultivar due to plant death 1Cultivar had 4 reps 2Cultivar had 3 reps 3Cultivar had 2 reps 4Cultivar had 1 rep
Our results indicate that Ochlockonee (pronounced o-clot-nee) performed well for both
yields, fruit flavor and size (Fig. 2). It is a late season producer and harvests
continued well into August at our site in Clarksville. This cultivar was a favorite
of the picking and research crew. Both for fresh eating flavor and ease of harvesting.
The plants always looked healthy and exhibited good and consistent growth (or vigor)
from year to year. It demonstrated very pretty berry coloring, and even ripening.
This is a stand out variety and yielded nearly 2/3 more on the four year average than
what the more standard Tiftblue yielded.
Columbus also yielded nicely in a more compact and slightly earlier season than Ochockonee.
Columbus tended to be juicer then the other cultivars. Columbus did struggle with
iron and/or nitrogen deficiencies, and had slightly lower vigor than Ochlockonee.
This was also a variety that stood out and also consistently yielded more on average
Ozark Blue was a high yielder, with good berry size but was not ranked highly for
sweetness as measured by Brix. It has a more compact average 40 day harvest season.
Though not as sweet as other cultivars the flavor of Ozark Blue was still good. A
couple members of the research crew preferred this berry to its sweeter counterparts
stating “it has more flavor.” The berry size made it easy to harvest and stand out
from other cultivars. There were issues getting this cultivar to establish and thrive
after transplanting. This resulted in the loss of several plants, likely due to poor
crop management in the early years of this trial. Once established, however, the plants
did well, demonstrating good vigor and, as mentioned earlier, high yields. Ozark Blue
is an older release from 1996 but appears to be standing up well to some of the newer
releases evaluated in this trial.
Camellia had large berry size and was very early, which may make it suitable for
pick-your-own production or for early market sales. This variety however did not stand
out to the research team for flavor.
Lenoir is slightly later than Camellia but still very early, had smaller berries but
ranked high for fruit sweetness. It was a favorite of the picking and research crew
for flavor. They observed that berry size and flavor was ideal for baking into blueberry
pancakes, muffins, breads and ice cream. However, it was observed that Lenoir plants
seemed to struggle with vigor and often did not send up any new shoots.
Magnolia also stood out to the research crew for flavor but did not compare to Ozark
Blue for plant vigor or yields.
Figure 1. Columbus Variety Blueberry Plant in 2017, with Iron Chlorosis symptoms.Photo: A. McWhirt
Figure 2. Winner of the biggest blueberry in 2017 at 4.59g, an Ochlockonee variety
berry.Photo: Taunya Ernst
A special thank you is owed to Taunya Ernst and the Research Team at the Fruit Research
Station for the care, management and data collection of this project!