Two new southern highbush blueberry cultivars designed for the lucrative, early fresh market are making their way into nursery and field production.
The varieties, Gupton and Pearl, were developed by breeder Stephen Stringer and his group at the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service station in Poplarville, Mo., according to a news release.
Unlike many southern highbush cultivars that lacked vigor, the new introductions were made from crosses among southern highbush germplasm, making them more adapted to the Southeast.
In Mississippi field trials, Gupton and Pearl flowered in mid- to late April and were ready for harvest about 21 days before the earliest rabbiteye cultivars, the main type grown in the South.
The highbush cultivars produce firm, medium to large berries with light blue color and high soluble solids.
They grow as cone-shaped, upright shrubs with chilling requirements of 400 to 500 hours below 45 degrees Fahrenheit.
Gupton was released in 2006, with Pearl released in 2010.
Several nurseries have requested Pearl, and some Mississippi growers have planted Gupton in small commercial plots.