The blueberry may be New Jersey's state fruit, but apparently it's not perfect.

This summer, researchers at Rutgers University are hitting the final phase of a quest to develop a variety of blueberry that more consumers should enjoy.

Thousands of blueberry plants are being evaluated for desirable traits, and only a few will move forward.

"We're in the middle of blueberry harvest," said Gina Sideli, an assistant professor of plant biology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences.

The trial is happening at Rutgers' Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research and Extension in Burlington County.

The effort may be in its final phase, but it could still be years before a "new and improved blueberry cultivar" can be brought to market, Rutgers says.

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The goal is to produce a blueberry that's sweeter (less acidity) and firmer. Also, the blueberry can only be successful if it can yield a lot of product on a yearly basis.

Blueberry field at the Philip E. Marucci Center for Blueberry and Cranberry Research (Nick Romanenko/Rutgers University)

It can take decades to develop a cultivar. Blueberries are perennial, so there's only so much time to work with them during the year.

"This year is going a bit faster because we had such extreme heat ... and that causes ripening to happen much faster," said Sideli, director of the center's breeding program.

New Jersey produces tens of millions of pounds of blueberries on a yearly basis.

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Gallery Credit: Erin Vogt

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