Continuing to bear fruit: MSU AgBioResearch scientist’s blueberry varieties

The blueberry varieties developed by Michigan State University AgBioResearch fruit breeder James Hancock continue to have a significant impact on the blueberry industry in both Michigan and around the world.

October 1, 2018

Jim Hancock

The blueberry varieties developed by Michigan State University AgBioResearch fruit breeder James Hancock continue to have a significant impact on the blueberry industry in both Michigan and around the world.

Hancock developed six northern highbush blueberry cultivars – dubbed Aurora, Draper, Liberty, Huron, Calypso and Osorno – which today are grown by farmers throughout North America, South America, Korea and Europe. Aurora, Draper and Liberty, commercially released together in 2004, remain the most widely planted northern highbush blueberry varieties on Earth.

Aurora and Liberty are late-season varieties that have helped position Michigan growers favorably in the marketplace by lengthening the harvest season and outlasting blueberries from elsewhere in the country, while Draper, capable of being mechanically harvested, has helped farmers increase efficiency and reduce labor costs.

Some of the licenses for the use of Hancock’s varieties were granted to other private breeding programs, which have now released their own varieties with the MSU cultivars as parents and contributing to the next generation of blueberry research.

  • Blueberries contribute over $130 million to the Michigan economy.
  • The MSU blueberry varieties have generated over $10 million in royalties for the university, money that has been reinvested to support further blueberry research.
  • Michigan is one of the top blueberry-growing states in the nation, producing over 110 million pounds annually.

Tags: agriculture: plants & animals

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