Feb 11, 2022
Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association honors fruit breeder Clark

The Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association has recognized John R. Clark, distinguished professor of horticulture and co-director of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture fruit breeding program, for his significant contributions to the blackberry industry.

The association honored Clark at its 2022 Winter Conference on Saturday, Feb. 5 at the Cooperative Extension Service state office in Little Rock. The conference also included a series of educational speakers, a trade show, and a Q&A with a farmer panel.

“Dr. Clark is nationally and internationally recognized as the number one blackberry breeder in the country,” Dan Smith, secretary treasurer for the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, said.

Since joining the University of Arkansas fruit breeding program in 1980, Clark has developed more than 60 varieties of various fruits, working with blackberries, table grapes, wine and muscadine grapes, blueberries and peaches. Clark specialized in blackberries and developed variety innovations such as enhanced postharvest storage potential, fall fruiting, and dwarf architecture.

Smith said the reach of Clark’s work has been extensive, with some of his blackberry varieties growing in Mexico, Chile and Argentina, in addition to California, Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia.

Clark, who is retiring at the end of 2022, said he was grateful to be thanked for his work by the association. Clark is a member of the Fruit Growers News editorial board.

“It is a fabulous honor to be recognized by the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association for career achievements,” Clark said. “I have had the honor to share with audiences from Tokyo to London and points between in my career, but no audience is as important as one made up of Arkansas growers.”

Smith said the association was established to promote the varieties of blackberries that can be grown in Arkansas and to educate Arkansas farmers on how those varieties have been adapted and tested. Smith also said Clark’s intensive research on blackberry varieties takes into consideration the multiple factors that contribute to a successful crop for growers in the state.

“From the time Clark makes a breeding selection, it can be 10 to 15 years before it’s ready to release those varieties,” Smith said. “Because he’s evaluating all the parameters, whether it’s sweetness and tartness, different growth habits, disease resistance or thorniness. And of course, he wants to release varieties that are high yielders.”

Clark said he encourages growers to join the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association to learn more about the crop and share information among peers, as he has found this to be a key component to grower success.

“The association allows sharing of information with growers, and equally as important, among growers,” Clark said. “A small piece of information from a formal presentation or a conversation with others at a meeting can make a big difference in the success of a berry farming enterprise. One can’t learn or know too much.”

To learn more about blackberry production in Arkansas, visit here or contact your local county extension agent. To learn more and become a member of the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, visit arkansasblackberry.org/.

Professor of horticulture and co-director of the of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture fruit breeding program John R. Clark receives recognition from Matt Wilson, president of the Arkansas Blackberry Growers Association, at the Association’s 2022 Winter Conference. Photo: Lizzy Herrera/University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture


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