Thanks to the efforts of plant breeders, new improved varieties of fruits and vegetables are continuously being made available to home gardeners. Some may be successful for 20 or more years, while others fail to live up to expectations. Because of differences in climate, latitude, disease populations and consumer preferences, it is impossible to develop the perfect cultivar for all locations. However, very good cultivars exist that can be adapted to most home garden situations. Many are available through these nurseries.
This fact sheet contains recent selections of small fruit cultivars that are noted for their exceptional disease resistance, adaptability and/or productivity. Choosing cultivars with the ability to withstand the rigors of pest pressure and a harsh environment can greatly diminish the need for applications of certain pesticides. It is still important to remember that prudent site selection, preparation and good maintenance techniques are necessary for satisfactory yields.
Today, most strawberry breeding for the Northeast is performed at Beltsville, MD by the United States Department of Agriculture, the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station at Geneva, and in Ontario and Nova Scotia, Canada. Promising selections are propagated, assigned a number, sent to cooperators in several states, and grown for a few years next to standard varieties. If a particular selection performs well relative to standards, it will be sent to a limited number of growers for testing. If growers find it promising, then the numbered selection will be propagated and given a name. There are several newer strawberry cultivars worthy of trial.
Lateglow is from the USDA program at Beltsville. It is a late season berry with very good flavor. Unlike many late season berries, Lateglow seems to retain its firmness. Plants are productive, resistant to root diseases, and are quite tolerant to fruit rots.
Allstar was released in 1981 and is very productive, resistant to soil diseases, and has large firm berries. It tends to have a "peachy" flavor and an orangish-red color when ripe.
Kent is from Nova Scotia, Canada. It is productive, cold-hardy and attractive, but mild in flavor.
Jewel was released by the New York program in 1985 and is an outstanding, widely adapted, and consistently high yielding cultivar. It does, however, lack resistance to soil diseases, but soil diseases are usually not a problem for home gardeners.
Honeoye is very productive, has beautiful fruit, and is cold hardy. Honeoye develops an off-flavor in hot weather. Like Jewel, it is not resistant to verticillium wilt or red stele.
Earliglow is an outstanding early cultivar that still sets the standard for earliness and flavor. Although its size declines after the first few pickings, it is one of the most consistent performers in the Northeast, along with Allstar, Honeoye and Jewel.
Northeaster is a new variety from USDA with a flavor that people either love or hate. Some have described the flavor as grapey or like bubblegum. The fruits are very large, and it is disease resistant.
The standard by which all fall-bearing raspberries are measured is Heritage. It was developed in New York, but is grown as far south as Georgia and as far west as California. It is also grown in other regions of the world where raspberries are grown commercially. It is productive and has excellent flavor, but it tends to fruit late in upstate New York.
Autumn Bliss is a fall-bearing type which produces earlier than Heritage in many regions, and has good flavor.
The standard for flavor among summer-bearing raspberries is Taylor. Although it is less productive than some cultivars, it is still widely planted.
Canby is somewhat cold tender, but produces early, large, flavorful fruit and is nearly thornless.
Prelude is a new variety from Cornell that is extremely early fruiting, before strawberry season is over. At the other extreme, Encore produces large fruit at the end of the summer season, in early August.
Reveille has been a favorite because of its high productivity and early fruiting, which occurs before the end of strawberry season. However, the fruit is not firm.
Two cultivars from the Canadian breeding program show promise. Boyne is very productive and extremely cold hardy, although fruit size is small and flavor is mild. Killarney is not as productive, but fruit color is a brilliant red and flavor is good.
Titan and Lauren have received the most interest of any cultivars in recent years, undoubtedly because of the tremendous size of their fruit. The plants are also the most productive among red raspberries, but also are susceptible to root rot and crown gall, and have only a mild flavor. They are recommended for only the best growing sites.
Rivaling Titan for size and productivity is Royalty, a purple raspberry with a black raspberry grandparent. It is the most vigorous of all raspberries grown in the Northeast, and fruit size is quite large. It is not as susceptible to root rot as Titan, and the flavor is excellent.
Among the black raspberries, Allen produces the largest berries, Haut is very productive, while the most flavorful are Bristol and Jewel.
Blueberries are one of the most recently cultivated crops. Several wild selections were propagated by the USDA and named in 1911. Nine cultivars which resulted from crosses among these wild selections were released in the 1920's and '30's. One of these, Jersey, is still widely grown, even though it is more than 60 years old. Six more cultivars were released between 1949 and 1955: Berkeley, Coville, Bluecrop, Earliblue, Herbert, and Blueray. These are the heart of today's blueberry industry.
Bluecrop, Blueray and Patriot are recommended for most areas of the Northeast, since these are hardy and produce high yields of large, flavorful fruit. There is some interest in the hardy half-high blueberries from Minnesota. Northblue, for example, can be grown in the colder areas of New York where highbush blueberries will not survive.
The acceptable blackberry plant for use in New York state should be hardy, thornless, have flavorful fruit, and be productive. Unfortunately, there are no varieties with all of these traits at present. Chester and Hull are the best of the thornless blackberries, but they should only be planted on in protected locations because their hardiness is questionable. Thornless blackberries are also challenging to train, because of their vigorous, trailing growth habit. Extensive trellising is required, and pruning is difficult.
Darrow is the only thorny blackberry with a track record in our climate. Illini Hardy, from Illinois, is a new release which will survive in New York, but it is quite thorny and susceptible to orange rust.
Dr. Marvin Pritts, Associate Professor, Fruit and Vegetable Science Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853
Marcia Eames-Sheavly, Extension Support Specialist, Fruit and Vegetable Science Department, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853