Rutgers University Cranberry Breeding Program

The Cranberry Breeding Program is led by Dr. Nicholi Vorsa, a Professor in the Department of Plant Biology and Director of the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry & Cranberry Research & Extension, Rutgers University.

Dr. Vorsa initiated the program in 1985 to further enhance the yield, fruit quality, and genetic diversity of the cranberry.

Before Rutgers varieties, the cranberry industry relied on only a few productive cultivars, and was dangerously dependent on a narrow genetic base. Thus, a first step in the breeding program was the establishment of a broad gene pool with which to work, including selections from cultivated beds throughout North America, from the previous USDA breeding program, and from native bogs. Dr. Vorsa discovered that in many cases, beds of a given ‘variety’ were in fact composed of more than one variety and that varietal misidentification was common. This problem prompted Dr. Vorsa’s lab to develop the first DNA fingerprinting technique for cranberries, allowing for accurate identification.

New Jersey offers an ideal environment for cranberry breeding due to severe disease pressure and heat stress. These conditions provide the opportunity to identify varieties with higher resistance to disease, scald, and heat stress.

Now, after 22 years, hundreds of crosses, and evaluation of more than 20,000 progeny, Dr. Vorsa is ready to release these new varieties to all cranberry growers.

What makes these varieties so exceptional? The breeder that created them.