The Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension, a substation of the Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station, generates and disseminates research information directly applicable to the production of high-quality blueberries and cranberries and develops new cultivars for industry.
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.
In addition to the renowned Beckwith, the substation has been the laboratory for such notable cranberry scientists as C.A. Doehlert, director from 1944 until his retirement in 1960; R.B. Wilcox, USDA plant pathologist; F.B. Chandler, horticulturist; and entomologists R.S. Filmer, P.E. Marucci, and W.E. Tomlinson, Jr. Both Chandler and Tomlinson eventually joined the staff of the Massachusetts Cranberry Experiment Station.
Today, the modern research facility, located in the midst of New Jersey’s cranberry and blueberry industry in the Pinelands, is recognized by the federal government as the national Center for Vaccinium Research. In addition to providing information on the cultural needs of cranberries and blueberries, the facility supports an extensive cranberry breeding program in cooperation with scientists from Massachusetts and Wisconsin.
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 All-Star 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.
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