Researchers at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension breed cranberries and blueberries with highly desirable traits. Over the course of generations, control methods for pests – such as leafhoppers, that transmit cranberry false-blossom disease – have been developed. Variety trials conducted at this center also demonstrate the crucial role bees play in pollinating cranberries. Members of this breeding program promote techniques for applying fungicides with minimal disturbance to the environment. Research is conducted through the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station and the United States Department of Agriculture.
The Marucci Center was first established at Whitesbog in 1918 under the direction of C.S. Beckwith. Although it was originated to focus solely on cranberry problems, research was gradually devoted to blueberries as the new fledgling cultivated blueberry industry developed. In 1927 the station was moved to Pemberton and then, in 1962, to its permanent new research facilities at Chatsworth, NJ.
Genetic improvement of cranberry was initiated in response to the ‘false-blossom’ disease with the objective of developing varieties which showed resistance to the spread of the disease (based on blunt-nosed leafhopper feeding preference assays).
Over 1,800 seedlings had fruited and 40 selections were made for a second test. From these, ‘Stevens,’ ‘Pilgrim,’ ‘Wilcox,’ ‘Franklin,’ ‘Bergman,’ and ‘Beckwith’ cultivars were named. An additional 182 selections were made during 1945-46 and set out for second round of testing.
20 crosses were made with the first breeding cycle hybrids Steven, Pilgrim, Franklin and Wilcox, and ‘Ben Lear,’ a native selection from Wisconsin. These 20 crosses initiated the 2nd cranberry breeding and selection cycle. From these crosses, 1466 seedlings were grown out in 5′ x 5′ plots at Haines & Haines, Inc. cranberry farm, Chatsworth, NJ and a replicate subset of 800 at Dubay Cranberry Co., Junction City, WI.
Largely directed toward the cranberry juice market, including traits such as early ripening and high total anthocyanin content (TAcy), as well as good consistent productivity and vegetative establishment vigor, the cultivars Crimson Queen® and Demoranville® were released from these crosses. Subsequently, in the 1990’s the variety #35 (Howes x Searles hybrid) was used in a series of crosses with Stevens, Pilgrim and ‘Lemunyon’, a native New Jersey variety.
Scarlet Knight® was derived from a Stevens x NJS9837 (a Franklin x Ben Lear hybrid, full sib of Demoranville) cross made in 1995, and selected for early high color and fresh fruit qualities.
Mullica Queen® originated from a 1997 cross of Lemunyon x #35.
A series of 3rd breeding and selection cycle crosses were made between the 2nd generation cultivar Mullica Queen (MQ) and 2nd generation cultivars Demoranville (D),Crimson Queen (CQ), Scarlet Knight (SK) and an unnamed selection NJS98-71 (Pilgrim x Ben Lear), 1stgeneration cultivars, Pilgrim (P) and Stevens (S), and Ben Lear (BL).
Patent issued for the Scarlet Knight® cranberry.
Over 1600 progeny were evaluated from these crosses during 2009-2012. In 2013, seventeen selections exhibiting very high yield potential: MQxBL (2), MQxD (1), MQxS(1), PxMQ(3) and NJS98-71xMQ(4), were planted in Bog 10 to be evaluated for productivity, fruit rot susceptibility, season, vegetative vigor, establishment and fruit quality traits, e.g. TAcy, Brix, titratable acidity, phenolics, etc.
An intensive effort to develop cranberry cultivars with improved fruit rot resistance began in 2003. The effort was initiated by screening our germplasm collection under intense fruit rot pressure resulting in the identification of four sources of fruit rot resistance. Two accessions were highly resistant, Budd’s Blues and US89-3, and two moderately resistant, Cumberland and Holliston. These accessions were used in crosses among each other, and with elite high yielding selections.
In 2009, 1624 progeny from 50 crosses were planted in 5′ x 5′ field plots at the Marucci Center, Chatsworth. Once established, the progeny were evaluated for three years under reduced fungicide regimes and severe fruit rot pressure. From these 1624 progeny, the “top ten”were selected based on the best fruit rot resistance, commercially viable yields, as well as good berry size and color. Most of the top ten selections had Budd’s Blues as a parent, a variety that has long been known to exhibit excellent fruit rot resistance, but has very low yields. In these crosses, many of Budd’s Blues’ progeny had good yields. For example, one Budd’s Blues x Crimson Queen progeny had a 3-yr mean yield of 300 g/ft2.
U.S. Plant Patent # 22,541
In addition to functionality and disease resistance, the appearance and flavor of the All-Star Rutgers Scarlet Knight® cranberry has been carefully selected for a deeper color red and a sweeter taste. Enjoy Rutgers Scarlet Knight® cranberries this November!
- Color: darker red, uniform coloring, high red pigment (anthocyanin) content
- Flavor: sweeter, low titratable acidity
- Appearance: larger and rounder fruit, 2.4 grams/berry
- Quality: longer shelf life, good keeping properties
- Yield: higher, average of 300 barrels/acre
U.S. Plant Patent #18,252 Crimson Queen® was the first variety released by Dr. Vorsa out of the Rutgers cranberry breeding program.
Qualities for Crimson Queen® include:
- Selected: for early fruit color development
- Color: high fruit anthocyanin (red pigment) content
- Size: large fruit, high vine (stolon) vigor
- Growth: quicker establishment and vigorous growth
This variety exhibits higher potential for large, consistent yields than the early-maturing variety ‘Ben Lear’. Crimson Queen® displays fifty percent bloom two to three days earlier than the variety ‘Stevens.’ Also, Crimson Queen® resulted higher yielding than the current standard variety ‘Stevens’ in WI and MA variety trials
U.S. Plant Patent #18,911 Qualities for Demoranville® include:
- Selected: early fruit color development
- Color: high fruit anthocyanin (red pigment) content
- Size: Large fruit
- Flavor: High overall fruit quality
- Growth: rapid establishment and vigorous growth
Demoranville® tested for consistent high yields in NJ and WI variety trials
Qualities for Mullica Queen® include:
- High yield potential
- Coarse vine
- Tendency to produce multiple flower buds
- High fruit set
- Medium fruit anthocyanin (red pigment) content
- Rapid establishment
- Vigorous growth
Mullica Queen® is an earlier flowering variety, three to five days earlier compared to the variety ‘Stevens.’ Unique genetic background, unrelated to the commonly used varieties ‘Stevens’ and ‘Ben Lear.’
- Rutgers patented cranberry varieties are available to commercial cranberry growers in the United States and Canada.
- Rutgers is not currently selling this cranberry variety directly to the public.
- For more information, visit Licensing and Technology: Agricultural Products
Next Generation Cranberry Hybrids: the 3rd Breeding and Selection Cycle (Bog 10)
Nicholi Vorsa and J. Johnson-Cicalese P.E. Marucci Center for Blueberry & Cranberry Research & Extension, Rutgers University, Chatsworth, NJ