All of blueberry plants produced by Superior and planted on the plantations we’ve helped to build are born in the same way – in our in-vitro laboratory. There, biologist Nenad Nikolić and his staff work through all the phases of seedling multiplication which, depending on the plant species and variety, require different growing approaches and other laboratory treatments, such as the formulation of the nutrient medium. Finding a better medium and conditions for the young plants requires both time and the patience of a scientist that Nenad has been relying on for decades throughout his professional life as well in Džervin and Lead Line, working on raspberries and blackberries. Those former successes in cloning helped Superior to become the first company in Serbia to produce seedlings in in-vitro conditions, and the first to produce its own blueberry seedlings.
The process of obtaining quality and healthy planting material in the lab begins with selection of prospective plants in the field. So-called “super-elite” propagation material is brought into the lab and cleaned with thermo-therapy from viruses and diseases. Only when it’s absolutely clean, the mother plant is brought into the multiplication process by isolating tissues, mostly meristem. Successful micropropagation depends on the sterility of all lab equipment and containers treated with high temperatures, and plant material that is rinsed and submerged in adequate solutions. We have been collaborating with the agriculture university in Zemun on production of virus-resistant propagation material.
After sterilization, under sterile conditions and using sterile tools, we separate the explant and transfer the tissue to the nutrient solution from which it will take all necessary matter for further development. After 3 to 4 weeks, young plants are separated and in groups of 20 moved to new containers where they mature for the next phase, at a temperature of 21-23°C and under 2000-lux light, for 16 hours a day. In the next phase, when the root develops, each plant gets its own sterile container and fresh nutrient solution. When the time comes, before the gentle plants leave strictly controlled and sterile conditions, the temperature is lowered in the lab, air moisture is increased around the plants, and the containers are opened.
Just out of the in-vitro lab with stems and roots now formed, plants start adapting. They migrate from ideal levels of moisture, temperature and light into the air handling unit, and then in containers with a special substrate (also sterile) we move them to acclimate in the greenhouse with shade and ventilation where we raise the air moisture with artificial rain, and over the next 10 days increase the length of light hours.
Once they have adapted to external conditions, transplantation into pots with substrate follows, and then migration to the nursery where they wait for their future grower.