Commercial Blueberry Culture

A properly planted blueberry field can last 30 years or more and be a
great asset to the property upon which it is planted. By having a good
marketing plan, selecting the right varieties, planting disease-free stock, and
proper preparation of the field, a grower can realize the full potential of the
crop.

Site Selection

One of the
first steps in successfully growing blueberries is to select an appropriate
field. The field should offer easy access for equipment and workers. There
should be good air drainage with freedom from late spring frosts. Complete soil
and water analyses should be done to determine the suitability for blueberries
prior to planting. The best blueberry soil is acidic, well drained, loose and
friable. If these conditions are not present, soil modification will be
necessary. Ample, clean water is essential for growing blueberries. In some
areas, irrigation water must be treated for best plant performance.

Tests and Weed Control

A complete soil
and nematode test performed properly should be done once a field is selected. A
weed control program should be implemented to eliminate perennial weeds before
planting. This may mean spraying of wild blackberries, round up applications
for quackgrass, late spraying of thistle, etc.

Variety Selection

It is important
to have a basic marketing plan prior to selecting varieties. Some types are
better for fresh berry sales, while others are planted specifically for the
process market (frozen, juice or dried). What will be their end use? Will the
berries be sold wholesale or retail? Will the berries be hand harvested or machine
harvested? Is your best target market early, mid, late or all season?

Climate is also
important to variety selection. Blueberries have been developed for almost all
climates, from warm semi-tropical areas to the coldest zones.

There are
specific varieties that tolerate difficult conditions such as heavy snow loads,
high summer heat, spring frosts, etc. Take time to identify the limiting
conditions in your area and choose varieties that best address them.

Plant spacing – plants per acre

2.5
ft. by 10 ft.= 1742

3.0 ft. by 10 ft.= 1452

3.5 ft. by 10 ft.= 1245

4.0 ft. by 10 ft.= 1089
2.5 ft. by 11 ft.= 1584

3.0 ft. by 11 ft.= 1320

3.5 ft. by 11 ft.= 1131

2.5 ft. by 12 ft.= 1452

3.0 ft. by 12 ft.= 1210 

Organic matter volume requirements 

• 1
cubic yard= 27 cubic ft.
• 7.5 cubic yards= 1 unit
A strip 3 inches deep by 24 inches wide on ten foot rows uses about 11 units
per acre of sawdust or ground bark. A semi-trailer typically holds from 10 to
14 units of sawdust depending on moisture levels

Common irrigation statistics

Overhead irrigation: A 40 x 40 ft. riser spacing totals 27 sprinklers in one acre. Typical sprinkler
orifice size for blueberries is 1/8", which delivers approximately 3 gpm
per sprinkler or 80gpm per acre.

Drip irrigation: A typical drip system uses a line on either side of the plant row with .5gph
emitters spaced 12" to 24" apart. Respectively, the gpm per acre
would be approximately 37 to 48 on ten-foot rows. 

Typical Pre-plant Preparation for Commercial
Blueberries

 Time Frame

PREPARATION

April: Soil test. Nematode test. Weed analysis

May: Design field layout

June: Design irrigation system     

July: [nothing]

August: 

Make ready all
compost

September: 

Prepare holding area
for plants

PROCEDURES

April: 

Spray down with
round-up

May: 

Plow, work down field 

June: Work down repeatedly for weeds

July: [nothing]

August: 

Subsoil and tile

September: Fumigate

Work in compost and any pre-plant fertilize

October: 

Install irrigation. Plant and mulch when field is ready 

Varieties

Oneal:

Very Early,
Bush erect, Slightly spreading, Fruit is medium sized, medium blue, firm, very
sweet, excellent scar.

Cumulative
cold requirement is listed at 400 hours. Grows best where the pH is kept at 5.0
or less.

Misty:

Midseason.
Bush is slightly spreading, extremely vigorous. Medium to large fruit, very
firm, small scar, mild sweet flavor.

Recommended
for commercial production in areas with chilling as low as 250 hours and all
areas with mild winters and hot summers.

Southmoon:

Midseason.
Bush is moderately vigorous and upright. Fruit is very large, sky blue, firm,
small dry scar, with outstanding flavor, highly productive.

Recommended
for lighter sandy soils with chilling requirement listed at 500 hours.

Legacy:

Late
mid-season, Upright, open, vigorous to 1.84-2.15 meters. Berries are medium
sized, light blue, very form, superior scar and flavor.

Legacy is a
Northern Southern Cross; it will keep most of its leaves through most of the
winter. Recommended for planting in mild climates.