Blueberry trees focus of Gary Gao’s University of Florida visit

By Gary Gao, PhD, Extension Specialist and Associate Professor

As a part of Gary Gao’s new specialty crop block grant, he travelled to the University of Florida in Gainesville to meet with professors Rebecca Darnell and Jeff Williamson. Together, they had a multi-year and multi-state USDA-SCRI grant to work on grafted blueberry trees.  Dr. Darnell was the PI of the project.  She showed Gary their grafted blueberry trees that were designed to improve harvest efficiency.  Southern highbush blueberry cultivars were grafted on the sparkleberry, Vaccinium arboretum in their study.

Dr. Jeff Williamson was one of the co-PIs of the project.  He showed Gary some of the advanced selections of sparkleberry plants.  It was very interesting to see the wide range of plant heights and forms.  Although the USDA project ended a couple of years ago, the blueberry tree project will continue, many thanks to some of the new state specialty crop grants that Drs. Darnell and Williamson have received.  

Gary Gao also reached out to Dr. Wei Qing Yang of Oregon State University for help.  Dr. Yang was able to send Gary Gao some sparkleberry plants from his rootstock selection program.  He is in the process of patenting several of his selections.  Hopefully, Gary Gao and his team will be able to find a few good selections for growers in Ohio.

Gary Gao and Ryan Slaughter would like to extend our sincere appreciation to the Ohio Department of Agriculture and the USDA for a new specialty crop block grant.  The grant will support a two-year study on grafted blueberry trees and evaluation of processing blueberry cultivars.