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Blueberry Crop Bulletin


According to a 2016 report by the US Department of Agriculture, Washington is the nation's largest producer of cultivated (highbush) blueberries with 132 million pounds in 2016, followed by Michigan, Georgia, Oregon, New Jersey, and California. In terms of acres harvested for cultivated blueberries in 2014, the leading state was Michigan (19,000 acres) followed by Georgia, Oregon, Washington and New Jersey.

Although Washington has commercialized the crop for many years until recently growth was mostly limited to acreage on the western side of the Cascades. The acreage has, over the last few years, increased significantly in the Columbia River Basin. At present, there are an estimated 13,000 acres in production in the state.

Oregon currently ranks fourth in statewide production of blueberries in the US, with 116.1 million pounds harvested in 2016. Despite the fact that most of the blueberry acreage in the state is located in the Willamette Valley, commercial blueberry production is also common throughout the Mid-Columbia area, where there are a number of existing, commercially successful blueberry operations. Harvested blueberry acreage in the state of Oregon has grown nearly four-fold over the last one and a half decades. 

The combined regions of Washington, western Oregon and the southern part of British Columbia, constitute the largest blueberry growing region in the world. Well over 90% of Canada’s cultivated commercial blueberry crop is grown in British Columbia.

Planting

When planting blueberries, site preparation is critical. Blueberries like acidic soils, meaning soils with a low pH (generally in the 4.5 to 5.5 range) and a higher concentration of organic matter. To achieve this, most new planting of blueberries are planted on raised beds 6”-10” high. These raised beds are composed of wheat straw and pine bark(shavings).

This allows the plants to be placed into material that will provide a low pH. The raised beds are also covered with a black plastic material that helps to reduce weed pressure and maintain soil moisture at a more consistent level. Mulch should be applied to a minimum depth of 6 inches and replenished whenever necessary.

Irrigation

Blueberries have a shallow, fibrous root system. This shallow root system, usually less than 18 inches deep, means it is important to keep plants well irrigated especially during hot weather. Blueberry bushes need at least 1 to 2 inches of water per week making drip irrigation an excellent method to provide water and nutrient to the crop. Mulching will help reduce the frequency of watering.

The majority of blueberry production irrigation is done with dual line drip systems. This allows growers to manage moisture levels more efficiently as the fruit matures in late July and early August.

Overhead irrigation is used in some production areas but mainly for frost protection and/or pest management.

Harvest

Blueberries have traditionally been hand-picked, however, as wages increase and the labor supply continues to shrink, farmers have begun to use machine harvesters. These machines shake the fruit off the bush. Although this method is more cost-effective, it does have an impact on fruit quality. New harvest machines are being developed that will reduce the “drop” of the berries which will reduce the potential for internal bruising.

Current Jain Products

Amnon - 17mm, 18mm, and 20mm -.29GPH, .42GPH, .53GPH -12”, 18” and 24” spacing

TopDrip - 17mm, 18mm, and 20mm -.29GPH, .42GPH, .53GPH -12”, 18” and 24” spacing

Flipper for frost control

 

Amnon 

TopDrip 

 Flipper

Amnon Top Drip

17mm, 18mm, and 20mm -.29GPH, .42GPH, .53GPH -12”, 18” and 24” spacing

17mm, 18mm, and 20mm -.29GPH, .42GPH, .53GPH -12”, 18” and 24” spacing

for frost control

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Brad Holliday

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