Kingston Directs $209,000 to Blueberry Research
Congressman secures funding to increase efficiency, improve quality of Georgia's fastest growing crop
Georgia's fastest growing crop is set to get some help from Uncle Sam thanks to the work of Congressman Jack Kingston (R/GA-1). The funding, which was approved by the House Appropriations Committee, will go toward increasing production efficiency and improved quality in the fruit delivered to consumers.
"Blueberries are growing fast in their importance to Georgia and the nation," Congressman Kingston said. "This research will implement new cultivars and management practices to increase efficiency and improve the quality of the fruit delivered to consumers. In addition, the practices implemented here in Georgia will be spread throughout the nation."
The research focuses on improving blueberry flavor, berry size and firmness. Research into taste will enhance sweetness and overall blueberry flavor which is an improvement over the bland tasting fruit that is often all that's available. Larger berry size attracts customers who want to eat blueberries as fresh fruit. Larger berries are more juicy and make overall better eating experience like grapes whereas smaller berries are often used in cooking. A firmer berry improves shelf life and ability to ship longer distances thus expanding the markets reached by Georgia's fresh blueberries.
Blueberry production is the fastest growing segment of agriculture in Georgia. Total farm sales increased in 2008 by 36%, from $44 million to $60 million. The Dean of UGA's College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, which will conduct the research, says that's just the start.
"Researchers have developed new varieties and management practices that should increase sales to over $100 million within three years, providing an exceptional return to our government's investment in blueberry research," said Dean Angle.
It is estimated that the economic impact of blueberries are seven-times their farm-gate value for the local area alone. If UGA's research proves successful, the impact could reach $700,000,000 in the areas which grow the fruit.