Vaccinium breeders seek information to target high priority issues facing growers

Profitability and sustainability of the United States’ blueberry and cranberry industries require an understanding of production and processing challenges, market changes, and consumer preferences. A survey is underway this winter to gather this information in an effort to provide this information to Vaccinium breeders so that they can target the highest priority issues facing today’s growers.

The survey will be distributed at the NC Blueberry Council 51st Annual Open House Trade and Show that will be held in Fayetteville (NC) on January 10-11, 2017.

This is a unique opportunity to share with breeders your challenges.

A national team of 25 blueberry and cranberry scientists from eleven institutions around the country, including Dr. Bill Cline, Dr. Hamid Ashrafi, Dr. Massimo Iorizzo and other three scientists at the North Carolina State University, are working together for the first time to establish a coordinated approach and define research objectives that will ultimately accelerate the development of improved cultivars by selecting for traits that are relevant to stakeholders.

The team will determine the most desirable traits for future cranberry and blueberry breeding by distributing a survey to blueberry and cranberry stakeholders, including growers, nurseries and processing/packing operations. The survey results will lead the discussion among the leading cranberry and blueberry researchers when they convene in 2017 to discuss the latest genomic approaches to breeding.

The research team has identified several target attributes for breeders to consider. These include, but are not limited to: fruit quality, insect and disease resistance, plant and fruit characteristics to improve machine harvest, frost tolerance and heat resistance. While these generalities were easy to identify, input from the blueberry and cranberry community is essential to help bring the specific areas of concern into focus, such as which diseases are most devastating, or what fruit quality attributes are most desirable?

Thank you, in advance, for completing the survey and playing a vital role in the future breeding efforts of blueberry. This project is funded by a USDA Specialty Crop Research Initiative Planning Grant. USDA planning grants are a precursor to larger, Coordinated Agricultural Projects, or CAP grants that can ultimately empower research toward development of advanced breeding-genomic approaches to meet industry and consumer needs. Efforts supported by the USDA-NIFA in other crops, including apple, strawberry, potato and tomato, that coordinate breeding and genomics-based approaches have been highly successful.

If you have any questions, contact Dr. Massimo Iorizzo at, or 704-250-5469. Media Contact: Megan Bame, Plants for Human Health Institute, Extension Associate, Communications 704-250-5461 or