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Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
Fri, Feb 27, 09 at 11:58

I see many sources claiming that 'Tifblue' is the best rabbiteye blueberry, but I'm wondering which other varieties are really good and which varieties I should plant in additions to 'Tifblue'.

I have had rabiteys for many years at another location. They produce well and thrive with no care at all. I don't remember what variety they are. The only complaint I have with my current plants (besides not knowing what they are) is that the fruit is not as great, when eaten fresh, as I think it could be. I would like a more powerful blueberry taste with fresh berries. They are wonderful when baked in a pie.


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

I think southern highbush are probably the way to go. I've only got rabbiteyes in my garden (Tifblue and Premier). The more I read on Southern Highbush (Southmoon, O'Neal, Misty, Star) they sound like they have many more favorable traits than rabbiteye. Fruit quality in particular sounds superior on Southern Highbush varieties.

This is all just what I have read on the internet though. Maybe someone more experienced can chime in.


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 27, 09 at 16:17

If that's the case, I'd sure like to know for sure. My local ag extension strongly advises rabbiteyes over southern highbush for this area. I have also seen a number of publications that corroborate that view.

I had planned on getting two southern highbush varieties anyway, but maybe I should concentrate more on them? If so, what varieties would be best. I had planned on getting a 'Southmoon', but haven't narrowed down other selections yet.


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

There are some newer improved releases from North Carolina that are getting good reports. Several of these are self-fertile. You can find some good descriptions at Finch Nursery.

Here is a link that might be useful: Rabbiteyes at Finch Nursery


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 27, 09 at 18:10

I'm familiar with Finch's and their rabbiteye line-up, but can't tell anything about the potential for any of the blueberries in that list. The descriptions are rather dry and don't point to exceptional performers.


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Re: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Fri, Feb 27, 09 at 18:12

Is there anyone out there with personal experience with multiple rabbiteye varieties?


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

I have heard others in DFW recommend 'Climax'. I have not tried it myself though.


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Sat, Feb 28, 09 at 21:19

One sources says, "Woodard is a must variety in any planting." But, it doesn't say why.

Austin, Climax, Delite, and Premier are reported as having good flavor by another source. How good is "good"?

Surely someone has personal experience with rabbiteyes around here.

And what about rabbiteyes v. southern highbush? Does anyone have further input?


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

This one of the better Publications I have found for your general area. Pretty current as of OCT 2006. I find it easy reading and understanding as well in depth. I have some southern highbush in the 2nd year and am putting in Rabbiteye this month in NE Georgia Montains. I read else where that for here I should avoid Climax and some other early bloomers in fear of losing blooms to a late frost. The plants themselves would be fine. I think my Highbush would bloom even earlier that is why I am putting out the Rabbiteyes this year, as well as to extend my session, I think my Rabbiteyes will be coming on just as my highbush are finishing up. With a mix of early, mid, late Rabbiteye I hope to have berries from May into Early Aug. Some years I might not get the early Berries, Easter Freeze 2 years ago I don't believe many berries at all around here even on the latest bloomers, but the plants themselves recovered fine.

http://www.smallfruits.org/Blueberries/production/06bbcvproc_Nov0206.pdf


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

Thanks Strudeldog. There is a lot of good information there. I see some of the ones that I thought looked the most promising have some problems. I'll definitely add this information into the mix. I wish there were even better descriptions or some type or rating for taste.


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

I would definitely go with southern highbush over rabbiteyes in east TN for sure. However, not all SH are created equally. Avoid the SH bred in Florida, as these have very low chill requirements. I have eaten many Tifblue and Climax berries. Tifblue is considered one of the best rabbiteyes, but would only be fair compared to most SH. Climax is very tart and gritty, and blooms too early (as do most rabbiteyes). Northern highbush bloom later than rabbiteyes (and most SH) but do not tolerate summer heat well. SH have fruit comparible to NH, but handle the heat much better.

Based on the many varieties I am growing, I do not think you could possibly grow anything better than Ozarkblue in your area. Others that have done really well for me are Legacy and Sierra. Star is another one worth considering for an early variety. It blooms late, but ripens quickly. Oneal is good, but has very picky soil requirements, so I would not recommend it at all if you have the typical east TN red clay soils.


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

  • Posted by brandon7 6b (like 7b now) TN (My Page) on
    Tue, Mar 3, 09 at 15:30

Kiwinut,

Why do you believe southern highbush would be better? Because of taste?

Here are some of the things that made me think rabbiteyes were the way to go:
1. The vast majority of commercially produced blueberries in Tennessee are rabbiteye types. In 2007, less than 1 percent were highbush.
2. According to UT Agricultural Extension publications, rabbiteyes experience far fewer disease problems in this area.
3. Also, according to UT Ag. Ext., southern highbush plants require irrigation while rabbiteyes don't.
4. According to a couple of sources, southern highbush is much more finicky about their soil than rabbiteyes.

I'm not devoted to either type exclusively, but I'd like to know the reason that I should choose southern highbush over rabbiteye, if that is indeed what I should do.


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RE: Best Rabbiteye Blueberries

Brandon,

In my opinion, Ag ext services are often decades behind, and will not recommend anything that has not been extremely well proven. If they don't recommend new things very often, they don't get a chance to be proven. Kind of a Catch 22. Some of the things you mention about SH are true for some varieties, but SH are highly variable and have been selected in many different climates, so you cannot lump them all together.

There is a large commercial blueberry farm not far from me. The oldest plants are rabbiteyes, 30+ years old, Tifblue and Climax. I know the guys that run it quite well, and I have discussed varieties with them many times. They have trialled many varieties over the years, both rabbiteyes and SH and a few northern highbush. They keep the rabbiteyes around because they are very productive and crop late when others are finished, but they have planted mostly one SH variety and one northern highbush variety over the past several years. The reasons are: the rabbiteyes require a huge amount of pruning compared to the others, and they have to use overhead sprinklers almost every spring to get a crop on the rabbiteyes. The vast majority of their plantings now are Ozarkblue and Blueray. Blueray is the only northern highbush they found that can stand the heat without irrigation and is their early/mid crop. Ozarkblue is by far their favorite variety. It is not bothered by heat, does not need any irrigation, resists spring frosts and never needs protection, and is highly productive of the highest quality berries. It is their mid/late crop, just before the rabbiteyes. They also grow Oneal, but only in containers in a greenhouse for a really early money crop.

The spring frost issue is probably the biggest reason to avoid rabbiteyes if you are planning to grow them commercially.

If you want to talk to these guys, email me.

~kiwinut


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