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North FL Research & Education Center- Suwannee Valley

North FL Research & Education Center- Suwannee Valley


The Florida blueberry industry has grown rapidly over the past 20 years, today reaching over $70 million in annual value with nearly 5,000 acres and an annual production of more than 20 million pounds. UF/IFAS played a pivotal role in the industry’s growth by releasing southern highbush cultivars that ripen in late April to May, a time of year when few berries are available and market prices are high. Several species of Vaccinium are native to Florida, including highbush (Vaccinium corymbosum), rabbiteye (Vaccinium virgatum), and evergreen (Vaccinium darrowii). Rabbiteye blueberry production peaked in northern Florida in the 1920s with more than 2,000 acres. Because of competition with northern blueberry producers, acreage in Florida steadily declined to less than 100 acres until the 1970s, when southern highbush cultivars were released. By 1985, the industry had approximately 1,000 acres (more than half was rabbiteye), which increased to 2,000 acres by 1995. Since 2005, nearly all acreage planted in Florida is in southern highbush cultivars developed by UF/IFAS. The industry continues to move farther south into areas such as DeSoto, Highlands, and Okeechobee counties.

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