Berry Breeding

Berry field gutterThe origin and history of the Loganberry in the 1880s was the beginning of the use of breeding to obtain better commercial varieties. Judge J.H. Logan was an interested backyard plant breeder, who began experimenting with breeding small fruits in his home garden at Logan Heights near Santa Cruz, California. Unsatisfied with the many varieties of blackberries, Judge Logan tried to cross two varieties of blackberries and unwittingly planted next to an old variety of red raspberry which had been cultivated for years in the area. The canes of all three fruited and flowered together and Judge Logan gathered and planted the seed. The 50 seedlings grew and produced a plant which was similar to the blackberry , but much larger and stronger. This, of course, was the Loganberry; a cross between the blackberry and raspberry. The remaining 49 plants were the Mammoth Blackberry, the longest fruit of any variety ever grown. Since this time, viable crosses have been made between the cultivars of raspberry and blackberry producing offspring like the Logan to confirm its parentage.

While the Logan proved to be productive and well-adapted to western climate conditions, the flavor was not popular with customers and marketing difficulties made it desirable to search further. The heritage of the Logan, being a blackberry by raspberry cross, stimulated interest in using it for breeding purposes and thus overshadowed the use of wild varieties for many years. Therefore, the Logan became a famous parent in the breeding of many cultivated varieties that are now commercially grown the in the Northwest. The Logan itself is grown mainly for juice, pies and wine.

In 1927, a cooperative project between the USDA and the Oregon Experimental Station began a Rubus breeding program designed to cross the domestic varieties with ten native blackberry selections. The domestic varieties used were mainly Boysenberry, Loganberry and Youngberry.

The search for superior native parents revealed that natural hybrids were occurring. Native blackberries are dioecious (characterized by having male flower and on one plant and female flowers on another) whereas the fertile natural hybrids had perfect monecious flowers. At first, these were thought to be new wild crosses with perfect flowered plants. Later, however, they were discovered to be like the cross between the native and domestic blackberries. Santiam, Johnson, Starr and Lincoln are selections from the wild that presumably arose as natural hybrids between naturalized or native species and Logan. Other perfect flowered selections used in breeding, such as Black Logan, Kayberry , Kosmos and Ware, do not closely resemble Santiam and other selections from the wild and therefore may have some other domestic parent than Logan, such as Himalaya or Evergreen.

In looking at selections of berries that have been outstanding in tests for canning and freezing, we find that all of them have Pacific Coast native blackberry entering into their origin to some extent. The varieties Logan, Young and Boysen are also in the parentage of all but Chehalem.

A wild variety found near Salem, Oregon by B. Zielinski and named Zielinski was successfully crossed with Logan and found to have characteristic similar to the wild blackberry. Two of these were named Pacific and Cascade, and are grown in home gardens for their native blackberry flavor and often used for home canning, jams, jellies and pies. Both are vigorous, ripe early and produce up to four tons per acre. Both are considered too soft for processing.

The Santiam, a natural hybrid between R. ursinus and a Logan, has a rich native blackberry flavor. The berries are small and black with very small seeds. Santiam ripens early and has medium vigor, but produces an average of only two tons per acre. The Santiam is grown commercially in Oregon to some extent. In 1936 a cross was made between the Santiam and Himalaya by George Waldo, USDA, Corvallis Oregon. The Chehalem was selected out of seedlings from this cross. The fruit of the Chehalem is smaller than a Logan with bright skin, shiny black color and small seeds. The flavor is excellent and especially good for frozen products. The seeds are small. It is well adapted to the Pacific Coast, and is vigorous and productive in moist, rich soil. The Chehalem has been grown to some extent commercially in Oregon.

The Black Logan, whose origin in not clear, was crossed with the Youngberry by George Waldo, and introduced as Olallie in 1950. The fruit is large, and slightly longer and more slender than the Boysenberry. Olallie is excellent for processing. Plants are very productive, with vigorous, thorny canes. Olallie is better adapted to the climatic conditions in California as it often winter kills in Oregon.

The Youngberry was another major breeding line used in many of our cultivated varieties. It was developed in Morgan City, Louisiana by B.M. Young in 1905. The Youngberry is a hybrid between the Phenomenal (a cultivar very similar to the Logan) and the Mayes Dewberry or trailing blackberry. It was not introduced until 1926, but it quickly became important in replacing the Logan to a great extent in California and to some extent in Oregon and Washington.