[nafex] vaccinium tolerant of alkaline soils

Michael Dossett phainopepla at yahoo.com
Thu Dec 20 16:01:20 EST 2012

There is some work being done at Oregon State University and elsewhere with using V. arboreum as a rootstock for growing highbush blueberries.  In fact, people have been experimenting with this for the last 40+ years.  Personally, I am skeptical of this method for commercial production.  There is a reason why it has been experimental for over 40 years and why it still isn't widely used!  That said, this may be a viable option for homeowners are small-scale production in some areas.  The trouble is having access to the plants.  The other trouble is that blueberries rejuvenate themselves by producing new canes from the crown.  Canes older than 4-5 years are not very productive (and only get worse over time) and are typically pruned out to encourage new canes to break from the crown.  The most productive wood on most blueberries is 2 years old.  If you are grafted to V. arboreum then you are no longer getting new cane development from the crown and
 the plants will become less productive over time.  It also makes pruning them much trickier.
Paul Lyrene (retired) and his successor, Jim Olmstead, at the University of Florida blueberry breeding program have been working to produce hybrids with V. arboreum.  Vaccinium arboreum is diploid whereas highbush blueberry is tetraploid.  They now have some good induced tetraploid hybrids and a generation or so of backcrosses where they are starting to get commercial fruit size and quality back (V. arboreum are soft and dark and don't have as good of flavor).  Of course, breeding is a long process and I would expect that they are probably at least 15 years away from releasing any varieties from this work.  Having said that, there is a push to develop some good populations and deposit them in the National Clonal Germplasm Repository for others to start working with as well.  I know that a grant to support that project wasn't funded last year, but Paul and Jim are working to finding alternate funding to make that project possible.
V. angustifolium is an acid-loving tetraploid.  If Jim Fruth is growing it well at pH 7.3, all I can think of is that he must have lots of organic matter, lots of mycorrhizea, and no iron problems on his site.  It is a largely self-incompatible (there are a few exceptions) and rhizomatous (instead of crown-forming) species.  These have been limitations as to why it hasn't been used more as a parent, but V. angustifolium is in the ancestry of many (perhaps most) modern highbush blueberry cultivars.  'Patriot' has it as a grandparent, and some of the initial selections that Coville used in making the first blueberry crosses in the early 1900s are believed to have been naturally occuring 1/2 or 1/4 angustifolium hybrids.  The modern half-high cultivars such as 'Chippewa', 'Polaris', 'Northsky', 'Northblue' and 'Northcountry' all have a high percentage of V. angustifolium parentage.

Michael Dossett
Mission, British Columbia
phainopepla at yahoo.com

From: William McNam <billmcnam at yahoo.com>
To: nafex at lists.ibiblio.org 
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2012 11:46 AM
Subject: [nafex] vaccinium tolerant of alkaline soils

Does anyone have experience using
vaccinium arboreum as rootstock?

Does anyone know of the existence of interspecific hybrids involving vaccinium arboreum or vaccinium angustifolium?

----Forwarded Message----
From: jfruth at uslink.net
Cc: nafex at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Sat, Nov 25, 2006 3:45 PM MSK
Subject: Re: blueberrries in alkaline soil 

1) Sand, with alot of Calcium in it.
2) I don't know.  Never tried it.
3) Of course!
4) Never measured it but, if I had to guess, I'd say, "1/4 cup or less." They grow rather thickly so it is difficult to tell.
5) Identical
6) The coldest it has gotten here has been -46º F.  They only don't bear from lack of rain.
7) I haven't been curious enough to check.  They are the wild blueberry here and I haven't seen any other species around here.

Jim Fruth
Brambleberry Farm

----- Original Message ----- From: bill d
To: jfruth at uslink.net
Sent: Friday, November 24, 2006 11:46 AM
Subject: blueberrries in alkaline soil

Thanks Jim!

What's the soil type there--sand ,clay, loam?
What happens if they're grown in soil with acid ph?
Are the plants self-fertile?
How much fruit do you get off one plant?
Are they distinguishable in taste from other species of blueberries?
How much winter cold can they withstand without injury?
Do you know of any interspecific hybrids of V. angustifolium with other Vaccinium species?
Bill asked:

Hi JIm!
What kind of blueberries are these that thrive in alkaline soil?
How tall do they grow?
Do you know what species they are?


  Vaccinium angustifolium, aka Dwarf, Sugar, Early or Low-Bush
The pH here is 7.3.  They grow up to, about, 18"

Jim Fruth
Brambleberry Farm
Pequot Lakes, MN 56472
(218)568-8483 [Store]


----Forwarded Message----
From: lonrom at hevanet.com
To: nafex at lists.ibiblio.org
Sent: Mon, Feb 14, 2005 4:29 AM MSK
Subject: Re: [NAFEX] blueberries for neutral soil

In one of the older POMONAs there is an article from (name escapes me) who studied Vaccinium arboreum, so called "farkleberry" of the South.  It was sufficiently tolerant of alkaline soils that northern highbush blueberries could be grafted on  the species and they would survive and produce when they would die on their own roots.  One old timer apparently had a patch of such grafted berries that was 25 years old and in good production.  I have a piece of V. arboreum grafted on highbush blueberries, and it's quite interesting.  I had thought of crossing the two, but the V. arboreum doesn't bloom until the highbush types have ripe fruit.
-Lon Rombough
Grapes, writing, consulting, my book, The Grape Grower, at http://www.bunchgrapes.com  Winner of the Garden Writers Association "Best Talent in Writing" award for 2003.
On Feb 13, 2005, at 2:33 PM, Louisa Rogoff Thompson wrote:


I believe all blueberries require very acidic soil, but some of their close cousins, the huckleberries (Gaylussacia spp.) do not.  Around here, black huckleberry (Gaylussacia baccata) grows along with blueberries in extremely acidic soil, but also grows in neutral soil if some other factor limits competition, and produces small but sweet berries.  This particular plant is a very low shrubby groundcover, about 6-12" tall and woody.  It's quite attractive, with silver-grey woody stems and exceptional fall foliage.   I believe it is found as far north as Newfoundland and Saskatchewan.  Also dangleberry, Gaylussacia frondosa, a much taller shrub (6-7'), has sweet, juicy fruit and grows as far north as southern New Hampshire.  I don't know if any true huckleberries (as opposed to Solanum spp.) are available from fruit nurseries.  If not, you could try native plant nurseries.

Louisa Thompson
Columbia, MD
Zone 7a

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