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May 28, 2008

North Carolina Closing Experiment Stations?

This would be very upsetting if it happens:

Legislature looks at closing Castle Hayne agricultural research facility (StarNewsOnline.com)

Actually, it's more than just the Castle Hayne station--they're talking as many as seven of the 18 stations. I can't say I'm terribly surprised, as that's a lot of experiment stations for a state its size, but it's still disappointing. Castle Hayne has been an imporant center of fruit research, particularly blueberry breeding, for a long time, and it would be sad to lose that history. Hopefully the work going on there could be relocated.

Given the large and booming blueberry industry in North Carolina, and the success of the locally developed cultivars, it would seem a shame to hamstring the breeding program (and even if they move it, breeding programs for perennials rarely come through "moves" unscathed). The North Carolina program has released dozens of cultivars, many of which are important worldwide. 'O'Neal' remains the standard in early cultivars, planted on thousands of acres around the globe, while one of their first cultivars, 'Croatan', essentially saved the industry by introducing resistance to stem canker, and still represents a substanial part of the acreage.

Here's a presentation describing the NC State blueberry releases (they throw a few non-NCSU varieties in there, which is a little misleading, though it probably was less so when presented. The asterisks in the list on the last page distinguish the actual NC releases):

An Overview of Blueberry Releases from NCSU--and Other Cultivars of Interest to NC Growers (SmallFruits.org) PDF

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