Rural Business
 Sustained rural lands; sustained profits




The Blueberry Patch

The Patch is an under-stated system. It is created for private profit, employment opportunities, and heightened value of land that makes it especially worthwhile tending well. It is more than a "patch," really a system of patches and the total system that includes them.

Abundant medical research suggests that blueberries are disease fighters. They have high antioxidant activity, probably associated with their blue ingredient, anthocyanin. The antioxidants help neutralize harmful byproducts of metabolism, the free radicals which seem to lead to cancer, age-related memory or vision loss, cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Two-thirds cup of blue berries contains 0.04 miligrams of beta carotene, 13 miligrams of vitamin C, 1 miligram of vitamin E, 97 IU vitamin A, 87 miligrams of potassium, 6 micrograms of folic acid, and 2.7 grams of dietary fiber.

The assumption is that blueberries can be grown well and we will devote much expertise to that. The first-order creative juices for the enterprise staff needed are how to add value to products of the land. Not at all limiting, the needs are for related (additive values) as well as enhancing values. These, for example, first-cut, are:

Notes

The blueberries are consumed by 93 species of wildlife. These include robin, titmouse, chickadee, cedar waxwing, tanager, and phoebe.

See The Blueberry Store, Grand Junction, Michigan

Preliminary cultivation instructions:

Select moist area exposed to long periods of sunshine (thus S and SW-facing slopes, The soil should be light (not dense clay) and with much humus. An acid soil is required. Place plants 4 feet apart in rows about 6-8 feet apart (later study exact optimum spacing, especially with hexagonal spacing being considered for gaining full sunlight on mature plants). Mulch plants (or use other techniques to retain moisture for the roots.)

Plants are shallow rooted and may be damaged by cultivation.

Remove 1/3 growth at planting time if spring planted or following spring if fall-planted.

After 3rd year, prune out low spreading branches and 1-2 old canes.

Plant 2 or more varieties for cross pollination.

Try to contact Dr. Robert Adams, Newport, Va., for advice and possible links.

There is need for a booklet, to be produced, later sold, on "The Productive Blueberry Patch - What We Now Know."

The questions before us, first to gather past answers and estimates:

  1. The species and variety names; the commercial varieties available
  2. The full early meaning and derivation of ericaceous
  3. The site factors associated with the available varieties (or pairs of varieties, as needed for cross fertilization)
  4. Maps (GIS) of these factors and their combinations
  5. Best seasonal mix for the varieties
  6. Maximum, mean, modal, median production per plant/row/acre?
  7. Weight per quart/peck - other relevant units
  8. Nutritional content - average energy,, soluble solids, carbohydrates, sugars
  9. Anti-oxidantss and the full story of functions
  10. Best soils, fertilizer, conditioning, cultivation, stand replacement?
  11. Best slope, aspect, elevation, nearness to roads? Nearness to water a factor?
  12. Desired spacing between rows/ plants
  13. Berry production correlation with sprouting (low?)
  14. Drip irrigation?
  15. Plastic sheets to save moisture?
  16. Pruning effects, frequency, effects on fruit production
  17. Hormone enhancement of flowering?
  18. Protection of produced flowers?
  19. Cultivation periods of the year (graph of days with person-power required per day - in connection with other enterprises)
  20. Major Internet sites
  21. Insects - list, with treatments and effects, and prevention
  22. Diseases - same
  23. Deer? Bears? Bird nets?
  24. Maximum age of plants? Succession or production curves for each aged plant
  25. Price per unit, changes over time, estimates
  26. Recipe book - write/sell seasonal and special meals or dishes
  27. Uses of pulp
  28. Uses of waste/wash waters
  29. Washing, floatation, cleaning fruits
  30. Drying and freezing potentials
  31. Efficient picking
  32. Packaging and delivery
  33. Insurance against fire? vandalism? frost? available?costs?
  34. Optimum Patch - how many plants, units, size of each, economies of scale and profit (not just size) and contractual requirements for participants (share cropping etc.)
  35. Effects of fire are from fertilization, little else (Smith and Hilton 1971)
  36. Minore et al. Rhizome root structure 3-12 below surface
  37. Ratio of ripe weight to harvested weight of berries?
    ripe weight = harvested weight x (average weight of ripe berry/average weight of harvested berry)
  38. Huckleberry shrubs burned in summer or autumn sprout during the following summer but do not produce berries for at least 3 years after the fire (Minore et al.)
  39. Getting seeds: Place ripe berries in a blender with water and small amount of detergent to wet seeds and keep them from floating away with the pulp. Place resulting slurry in a dish and decant under a slow stream of water. Pulp will float away, leaving seeds in the dish bottom. Air dry seeds, sow on moist peat at cool growth chamber temperature (64 degrees F) 12 hour days, 55 degree 12-hour nights. Germination occurs in 16-21 days. pH 5 is best growth environment (Minore et al.).

Hayne and Cardinell (1949) observed that the fruits have been found in the stomachs of 93 species of birds. In their studies, robins and sparrows were most involved. Birds do eat blueberries, mostly from the ground, but "losses to birds in plantations of commercial size appear minor and not to justify much expenditure in crop protection. Damage in small plantations may be severe. The ground feeding habits of robins and other birds are probably beneficial, especially in small plantings where the number of birds per bush is great enough to remove all fallen fruit."

Virginia Tech has blueberry studies ongoing on a Russell Co. experimental farm.

Consider advantages of affiliating with www.VirginiaGrown.com and similar organizations.

References

Smith, D.W. and R.J. Hilton. 1971. The comparative effects of pruning by burning or clipping on lowbush blueberries in North-eastern Ontario. J. Appl. Ecol. 8(3)781-789

Mien, S. E. (1964). Chemical aspects of heather burning. J. appl. Ecol. 1, 347-67.

Black, W. N. (1963). The effect of frequency of rotational burning on blueberry production. Can. J. Pl. Sci. 43, 161-5.

Boultbee, R. (1956). Blueberry cropping experiment in Port Arthur District. Mgmt. Rep. Ont. Dep. Lands For. Fish Wildl. 28, 32-42.

Chapman, S. B. (1967). Nutrient budgets for a dry heath ecosystem in the south of England. J. Ecol. 55, 677-89.

Eaton, E. L. & White, R. G. (1960). The relation between burning dates and the development of sprouts and flower buds in the lowbush blueberry. Am. Soc. hort. Sci. 76, 338-42.

Hayne, D.W. and H.A. Cardinell. 1949. Damage to blueberries by birds.Michigan Agricultural Experiment Station Quarterly Bulletin, 32(2): 213-219

Robertson, R. A. and Davies, G. E. (1965). Quantities of plant nutrients in heather ecosystems. J. appl. Ecol. 2, 211-9.

Smith, D. W. (1969). A taximetric study of Vaccinium in northeastern Ontario. Can. J. Bot. 47, 1747-59.

Smith, D. W. (1970). Concentrations of soil nutrients before and after fire. Can. J. Soil Sci. 50, 17-29.

Smith, D. W., Hilton, R. J. and Evans, W. D. (1968). Wild blueberry management in Ontario. Brch Rep. Agric. .Rehab. Dvel. (Res. Proj. 25028), p. 26.

Trevett, M. F. (1956). Observations on the decline and rehabilitation of lowbush blueberry fields. Misc. Publs Me. agric. Exp. Stn, 626, p. 21.

Rogers, R. 1974. Blueberries, p.12-15 in Gill, J.D. and W.M. Healy. Shrubs and vines for Northeastern Wildlife, USDA For Serv. Tech Rpt NE-9, 180pp.

Minore, D. A.W. Smart, and M. E. Dubrasich. 1979. Huckleberry ecology and management research in the Pacific Northwest, USDDA Forest Serv. Gen Tech Rpt PNW-93, 51 pp with table. (re big huckleberry V. membranaceum)

A Virginia Extension Serevice farm in Russel Co., Virginia, specializes on blueberries.

Arrange for a commission (or wholesale) for sales of L. Mackenzie's Blueberry Farm Cookbook: 365 blueberry recipes you can prepare year-round,(2001) Homewood Books, 2682 Mad Tom Road, East Dorset, Vermont 05253

Use the book to find ways to add value to the berry crop (e.g., dried using local natural gas, a syrup, or wines)

Giles picked 1 gallon per hour in 2003 using a 1/2-gallon cup hung at front chest with string around the neck; working with both hands; dumping cup when full into a gallon container.

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Last Update, October 3, 2004