Naike, the first blueberry variety developed by the Faculty of Agronomy of the University of Buenos Aires (FAUBA), has already been registered at the National Seed Institute (INASE). Naike has been the result of a genetic improvement program developed by FAUBA's Genetics Department, which currently has 20,000 new genotypes under evaluation, in collaboration with the EarlyCrop company, from the province of Tucuman.
“This new cultivar was developed for Tucuman, where its production peak coincides with the moment that blueberry prices peak in international markets, mainly in the United States, even though demand from China has also started to grow. Furthermore, in this area of Tucuman, this variety yielded twice as much as it did in other regions of the country,” said Gustavo Schrauf, professor of the FAUBA Department of Genetics. Naike blueberry plants also yielded 10 to 15% more than the commercial materials that researchers used as control groups.
The researcher highlighted that Naike had two characteristics that are difficult to find together: long postharvest life and very good taste, according to the tastings carried out with specialists in the field.
FAUBA's Genetics Department has been developing a blueberry genetic improvement program since 2009. “We seek to obtain varieties that are adapted to local agro-ecological conditions, have a good taste (sweet and low acidity), an adequate fruit size, and excellent production. We also want them to have a long postharvest life, as 90% of the blueberry production is exported to the northern hemisphere (to the US, Canada, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and -since 2018- to China), and shipping the production by sea is nearly five times less expensive than shipping it by plane," said Pablo Peralta Roa, a professor and researcher at FAUBA who is responsible for the execution of the improvement program. "Naike meets all these requirements," he added.
FAUBA's improvement program is being carried out in Tucuman and Buenos Aires. In Sargento Moya, south of San Miguel de Tucuman, researchers select genetic materials of the Southern Highbush type, based on the attributes they seek and adapted to local agroecological conditions. Micropropagation is carried out at FAUBA's facility in the City of Buenos Aires and new materials are generated from seeds extracted from their fruits. The crosses are carried out in Tucuman and CABA.
Peralta Roa said they already had "other very promising materials that we are evaluating, so we hope to continue registering new cultivars in the coming years."