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North Carolina State University research

NC State lands $12.8 million to improve blueberry and cranberry fruit quality

For their long-term goal of improving blueberry and cranberry based on producer and consumer interests, NC State University scientists, Massimo Iorizzo, Mary Ann Lila and Penelope Perkins-Veazie, were awarded a four-year, $6.4 million grant from the USDA.

The $12.8 million VacciniumCAP project, leveraging genetic & genomic resources to enable development of blueberry and cranberry cultivars with improved fruit quality attributes, will be led by Iorizzo at the Plants for Human Health Institute.

The “VacCAP” project, short for Vaccinium Coordinated Agricultural Project will explore blueberry and cranberry, which are both botanically part of the Vaccinium species. One thing that sets this project apart is the fact that it is highly industry-driven. While breeders and industry representatives understand that use of DNA markers represent an effective strategy to develop improved cultivars, DNA-based information is still not used in blueberry and cranberry breeding programs,” Iorizzo said.

In 2016 and 2017, with funding from the USDA, Iorizzo coordinated a preliminary research project by distributing a survey to blueberry and cranberry stakeholders to identify industry priorities. Improving fruit quality, specifically firmness, flavor, shelf life and appearance (color, size, free of disease damage) were noted as high priority. That information served as the basis for the area of improvement that will be targeted during the VacCAP project.

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