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story.lead_photo.caption Julie Smith/News TribuneLincoln University professor Jonathan Egilla, left, rolls out measuring tape while research technician Isabelle Nyirakabibi places a marker every four feet. A flag is placed where a hole is to be dug to plant moe blueberry bushes for the ongoing research at Lincoln's Carver Farm on Bald Hill Road. Egilla, a professor of horticulture, has five varieties in the ground that he’s been gathering data for the past 10 years. He’s going to plant more varieties this week and study them as he tries to find the ideal one for this climate and general soil type.

As more people enjoy blueberries and the health benefits they provide, a Lincoln University researcher is working to determine which kinds are best for central Missouri.

Lincoln University's Carver Research Farm has doubled the variety of blueberries growing in its Blueberry Variety Evaluation Orchard, bringing in five new species of the fruit for study.

Jonathan Egilla, an assistant professor of horticulture and research principal investigator at Lincoln, has been studying differences in blueberry varieties since 2007, when he established the Blueberry Variety Evaluation Project.

Blueberry consumption is increasing each year and roughly two-thirds of the blueberries grown around the world are marketed as fresh fruit.

Blueberries are one of the richest fruits in antioxidants, and the primary way to reap those health benefits is by eating the fruit fresh.

Egilla's research looks to understand how Mid-Missouri's climate affects the growth and fruit yield of different blueberry varieties.

In addition to the Bluecrop, Duke, Legacy, Elliot and Reka blueberries that were already grown on the farm, Egilla has added Chandler, Draper, Jewel, Patriot and Victoria-T varieties to his studies.

As part of the Lincoln University Cooperative Extension, the findings from Egilla's research are used to help Missouri farmers assess the feasibility of growing blueberries in their fields and select the varieties that are most adaptable for home gardens and commercial growing.

The Cooperative Extension provides support to small farmers across the state with research-based education and engagement to address a variety of needs.

Accessible year-round, farmers, gardeners and K-12 teachers and students can visit the orchard to review Egilla's research and determine which varieties they want to grow.

Egilla also uses the blueberry orchard for course instruction when teaching horticulture and introduction to plant science. The orchard is accessible to all plant science students and extension educators at Lincoln.

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