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New blueberry release prefers warm weather

New blueberry release prefers warm weather

HortResearch and Blueberries New Zealand have released a new commercial blueberry cultivar. "Island Blue'. This blueberry is an early ripening southern highbush particularly suited for warmer regions such as Northland.

'Island Blue' was bred by HortResearch Ruakura and is the eighth release since the blueberry breeding programme commenced in the 1970s. The cross for 'Island Blue' was made in 1988 and the selection in 1993. The last cultivar to be released was 'Takahe', a home garden variety, in 1997. Commercial varieties, 'Ono' and 'Whitu', were released in 1994. The other commercial releases are 'Nui', 'Puru' and 'Reka' (all highbush), and 'Rahi' and 'Maru' (rabbiteye varieties).

The new blueberry has a low winter chilling requirement and is adapted to grow in warmer regions, producing high yields of berries suitable for both fresh and process markets. It was evaluated in Northland where it ripens in early to mid October. Fruit are small to average in size, very firm with moderate bloom and rounded in shape.

In the Waikato, berries ripen from late November onwards about the same time as the northern highbush cultivars, 'Reka', and 'Nui'. 'Island Blue' produces consistent, high yields of very firm, even-sized fruit, which detach smoothly from the plant when clusters are shaken, showing good potential for machine harvest. The fruit has an excellent texture, with good flavour. H ortResearch scientist, Narandra Patel, said, "We expect 'Island Blue' will complement early season outdoor production, particularly in Northland, and also possibly become a useful machine harvest process cultivar in traditional production areas where mild winters are common".

'Island Blue' is now available to commercial growers from licensed blueberry nurseries: Tharfields (ph 07 552 5802) and Ngaroto (ph 07 871 5668).

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