Feb. 09, 2022
Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association honors Division of Agriculture fruit breeder
By Rebekah Hall
U of A System Division of Agriculture
- John R. Clark honored for extensive contributions to blackberry industry
- Conference included speakers, trade show, farmer Q&A panel
LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association has recognized John R. Clark, distinguished professor of horticulture and co-director of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture fruit breeding program, for his significant contributions to the blackberry industry.
The association honored Clark at its 2022 Winter Conference on Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Cooperative Extension Service state office in Little Rock. The conference also included a series of educational speakers, a trade show, and a Q&A with a farmer panel.
“Dr. Clark is nationally and internationally recognized as the number one blackberry breeder in the country,” Dan Smith, secretary treasurer for the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, said.
Since joining the University of Arkansas fruit breeding program in 1980, Clark has developed more than 60 varieties of various fruits, working with blackberries, table grapes, wine and muscadine grapes, blueberries and peaches. Clark specialized in blackberries and developed variety innovations such as enhanced postharvest storage potential, fall fruiting, and dwarf architecture.
Smith said the reach of Clark’s work has been extensive, with some of his blackberry varieties growing in Mexico, Chile and Argentina, in addition to California, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia.
Clark, who is retiring at the end of 2022, said he was grateful to be thanked for his work by the association.
“It is a fabulous honor to be recognized by the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association for career achievements,” Clark said. “I have had the honor to share with audiences from Tokyo to London and points between in my career, but no audience is as important as one made up of Arkansas growers.”
Smith said the association was established to promote the varieties of blackberries that can be grown in Arkansas and to educate Arkansas farmers on how those varieties have been adapted and tested. Smith also said Clark’s intensive research on blackberry varieties takes into consideration the multiple factors that contribute to a successful crop for growers in the state.
“From the time Clark makes a breeding selection, it can be 10 to 15 years before it’s ready to release those varieties,” Smith said. “Because he’s evaluating all the parameters, whether it’s sweetness and tartness, different growth habits, disease resistance or thorniness. And of course, he wants to release varieties that are high yielders.”
Clark said he encourages growers to join the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association to learn more about the crop and share information among peers, as he has found this to be a key component to grower success.
“The association allows sharing of information with growers, and equally as important, among growers,” Clark said. “A small piece of information from a formal presentation or a conversation with others at a meeting can make a big difference in the success of a berry farming enterprise. One can’t learn or know too much.”
To learn more about blackberry production in Arkansas, visit uaex.uada.edu/farm-ranch/crops-commercial-horticulture/horticulture/commercial-fruit-production/blackberries-production.aspx or contact your local county extension agent. To learn more and become a member of the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, visit arkansasblackberry.org/.
To learn about extension programs in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit www.uaex.uada.edu. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram at @AR_Extension. To learn more about Division of Agriculture research, visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station website: https://aaes.uark.edu. Follow on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch. To learn more about the Division of Agriculture, visit https://uada.edu/. Follow us on Twitter at @AgInArk.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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