Laboratory method to estimate rain-induced splitting in cultivated blueberries

Donna A. Marshall
James M. Spiers
Stephen J. Stringer
Kenneth J. Curry, University of Southern Mississippi


yPreharvest rainfall that occurs when fruit are fully ripe or approaching full ripeness can result in detrimental fruit splitting in rabbiteye and southern highbush blueberries. This study was initiated to develop a laboratory method to model rain-related incidence of splitting in cultivated blueberries with the goal of predicting the incidence of splitting in blueberry cultivars and selections. Multiyear field surveys of rabbiteye and southern highbush cultivars show that the incidence of rain-related splitting is strongly cultivar-dependent. Laboratory values for forced splitting and naturally occurring rain-related field splitting data show a strong correlation indicating that the incidence of fruit splitting can be accurately estimated by this laboratory method. Soaking the berries in distilled water 14 h at room temperature gives a confident determination of splitting tendencies. Blueberry breeders and geneticists can use this method to evaluate new potential blueberry cultivars for splitting tendencies as part of routine screening. This would lead to a long-term goal of reducing splitting susceptible blueberry cultivars in commercial plantings.