Courtesy of NARBAJohn R. Clark poses with his priomocane-fruiting Prime-Ark 45 blackberry, which has the potential to increase both the harvest window for blackberries and the geographic range for commercial production.New varieties of blackberries bred with the intent to increase the harvest window and geographic range earned John Clark the Distinguished Service Award from the North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association.
Clark, a professor of horticulture at the University of Arkansas, describes his work as “controlled evolution.” In addition to running what the university’s website says is the “world’s largest blackberry breeding program,” Clark also oversees testing and breeding programs for blackberries in Europe, Central and South America, Japan and Australia.
The North American Raspberry and Blackberry Association recognized Clark’s work at its annual meeting Jan. 16. Incoming NARBA president Nathan Milburn of Milburn Orchards, Elkton, Md., said in a release announcing the award that Clark is the breeder behind many of the leading varieties of blackberries grown today.
In particular, Clark’s primocane varieties — Prime Jim, Prime Jan and PrimeArk 45 — are of interest to North American growers because they were bred for longer fruiting seasons and commercial production. Clark is also the breeder behind numerous popular varieties, including the recently released Natchez and Ouachita blackberries that thrive in the Eastern U.S. and California.
The NARBA membership includes growers and researchers in more than 35 states, 8 Canadian provinces and five other countries.