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Dr. Jim Ballington

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Dr. Jim BallingtonPh.D., Horticultural Science, N.C. State University, 1975

M.S., Horticulture, Clemson University, 1968

B.S., Agricultural Education, Clemson University, 1964

Since joining the faculty at N.C. State University in 1975, Dr. Jim Ballington has specialized in developing new varieties of a number of small fruit crops that better serve farmers and consumers in North Carolina. In addition to blueberries and strawberries, Ballington, at one time or another, has also been involved in breeding blackberries and raspberries. He also initiated a muscadine grape breeding program at N.C. State.

Ballington earned his Bachelor of Science and Master’s degrees from Clemson University, where he developed an interest in blueberries. Though he earned his doctorate studying blueberries at N.C. State, his first faculty assignment came in peach and nectarine breeding.

Since then, he has released seven peach cultivars; 32 blueberry cultivars, including a number adapted for mechanical harvest for the fresh market; seven strawberry cultivars; and one raspberry variety (with Dr. Gina Fernandez). Since 2003, he’s released the Bish and Galetta varieties of strawberry, named for the late Cooperative Extension berry specialist Eric Bish and Ballington’s late mentor, Dr. Gene Galetta.

On a trip to England and Spain, Ballington first saw the extensive use of high tunnels to avoid inclement weather during the growing season and to lengthen the season itself. The tunnels are essentially unheated, plastic greenhouses built to cover crops in the field, and he and N.C. State colleague Dr. Barclay Poling have championed their development in North Carolina. Combining new technologies, new varieties and the local food movement, strawberry and other small-fruit farmers, including blueberry growers, now have a number of additional viable options, Ballington says.

During his career, Ballington has received a number of awards, including the Wilder Medal from the American Pomological Society for outstanding achievement in small fruit cultivar development, in 1998, and the Fruit Cultivar Award from the American Society for Horticultural Science for the O’Neal Blueberry, in 2005. In 2002, he was named a fellow of the American Society for Horticultural Science.

He has been instrumental in contributing small fruit germplasm to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Germplasm System and to the National Clonal Germplasm Repository, helping ensure a diversity of germplasm for future plant breeders. He also is a consultant on small fruit crops in Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and China.