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Elizabeth White

Origin, Early Development, and Natural History

(From G.J. Galletta's entry in Advances in Fruit Breeding, edited by Jules Janick and James N. Moore)

Elizabeth White

The blueberry is one of the most recent of the major fruit crops to be brought under cultivation, having been domesticated entirely in the twentieth century. The cultivated blueberries offer a most dramatic example of the results of fruit crop breeding and selection. All blueberries were harvested from wild plants prior to the first shipment of fruit of Dr. F. V. Coville's hybrid seedlings from Miss Elizabeth White's farm at Whitesbog, New Jersey, in 1916. The introduction of the 'Pioneer', 'Cabot', and 'Katherine' cultivars from Coville's breeding program in 1920 served as the basis for an entirely new agricultural industry, which was adapted to the utilization of acid, imperfectly drained soils that had been previously classed as agriculturally worthless.

This industry has continued to thrive and expand with the continuing development of newer and better cultivars; more than 61 highbush and 35 rabbiteye cultivars  which originated from controlled pollinations have been named to date. In addition, 22 southern highbush and 7 half-highbush cultivars have also been named.

There are over 15,838 ha  (39,120 acres) of cultivated blueberries in the United States at present. Along with considerable European interest in expanding blueberry culture based initially on the use of adapted American cultivars, interest is also prevalent in Asia, particularily Japan. The future outlook is good for a greatly increased world production of blueberries, but the realization of this expansion will be dependent on further developments in blueberry breeding and genetics.