Blueberry researcher Dr David Creech starts munching on blueberries about a month earlier than the rest of us. "Boy these are nice," said the the SFA professor as he pulled a ripe blueberry and popped it into his mouth. Creech manages the only USDA blueberry research plots in Texas at the Hayter Blueberry Farm on Hiway 21 west. Since 1988 Creech has looked after genetically cross bred varieties of blueberries. Creech said, "We have about 136 advanced selections. They're not even named yet, and the primary goal of that is to produce blueberries starting in the first of May."
There are several advantages to an earlier berry. Creech laughed, "Of course for the pick your own crowd I think it's a lot more pleasant to pick in May than it is today with it so hot." But most of all it gives producers a jump start in the market. Creech explained, "Early berries also command a very high price. We're blessed in the south here you can get into the market place early so you not only get the good price, but you get your foot in the door as for as marketing is concerned."
There are three varieties that are very promising. Creech said, "We're trying to come up with a name, rather it's the Nacogdoches Blueberry or I'm not sure what we'll call it, but we think it's going to be a good one."
It takes up to 15 to 20 years of research to put a new variety on the market. That's lots of evaluation on durability against freezes, perishablity, and of course taste. Creech puts a scientists spin on that test. "We don't call it taste testing. We call it organoliptic evaluation."