Interspecific Crosses and Backcrosses between Diploid Vaccinium darrowii and Tetraploid Southern Highbush Blueberry

Chavez, D.J.; Lyrene, P.M.

Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science 134(2): 273-280


Diploid Vaccinium darrowii Camp has been used in breeding tetraploid southern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) as a source of reduced chilling requirement, adaptation to hot, wet summers, and resistance to leaf diseases. V. darrowii in Florida is quite variable, but most crosses have involved only one V. darrowii clone, Fla. 4B. The use in breeding of a wider range of V. darrowii accessions would provide beneficial diversity in the blueberry cultivated gene pool. The purpose of this research was to determine the functional 2n gamete frequency of numerous V. darrowii genotypes when crossed with tetraploid V. corymbosum, and to study the pollen fertility and backcross ability of the interspecific (V. darrowii x V. corymbosum) hybrids to V. corymbosum. Crosses between diploid V. darrowii and tetraploid highbush blueberry cultivars had low fruit set compared with the V. darrowii x V. darrowii and highbush x highbush crosses. The unusually high number of hybrids per pollinated flower (HPF) in certain 4x-2x or 2x-4x crosses was attributed to high functional 2n gamete production in certain V. darrowii genotypes. Diploid Vaccinium fuscatum Aiton and diploid V. darrowii x V. fuscatum hybrids, when crossed with southern highbush blueberry cultivars, were equally productive of hybrids whether used as male or female parents. Variation in frequency of functional 2n gametes in V. darrowii, expressed as high HPF, was present within plants (megaspores vs. microspores) and among V. darrowii plants. Of the 114 interspecific (V. darrowii x V. corymbosum) hybrids studied, 106 had pollen stainability >50%. This indicated that most of these hybrids were tetraploid, because triploid blueberries, like most triploid plants, are highly sterile. Twenty-two V. darrowii x V. corymbosum hybrids were backcrossed to tetraploid highbush blueberry cultivars. Fruit set was variable, but large populations of vigorous hybrids were obtained. Lower fruit set was associated with hybrids that had lower pollen fertility. It should be possible to obtain plants of cultivar quality in a few generations of backcrosses.