Commercial Horticulture - Fruits and Nuts
Cultivated blueberry production in the United States consists predominantly
of the northern or standard highbush blueberry, with major areas of production
in the upper South, Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest, and the rabbiteye
blueberry, a native southern blueberry grown from the mid-South to deep South.
The southern highbush blueberry is a relatively new type of blueberry and is
a hybrid of the northern highbush and one or more native southern blueberry
In Arkansas, northern highbush blueberries are grown in the northern
counties, and rabbiteyes are grown in more central and southern areas.
Southern highbush evaluations and limited commercial production have begun
in the traditional rabbiteye areas of Arkansas, and two southern highbush
varieties have been introduced.
A fundamental need in blueberry production is an acid soil, with a pH of 4.8
to 5.4 preferable in Arkansas, and a soil that is of a light texture. Sandy loam
is preferred but not an absolute requirement. A recommended practice is the
addition of peat moss at a rate of one to two gallons per plant to the planting
hole at planting, along with mulching with an organic material such as pine
straw, sawdust or wood chips. A mixture of sawdust and wood chips is preferable.
Irrigation is a must for plant survival and productivity.
Blueberries usually fruit the third season after planting. Flower buds will
develop on second-year plants, but it is best to remove these to encourage plant
growth in the second season. Pest control on blueberries is minimal, and routine
fungicide and insecticide applications are not commonly needed. Bird control is
the major issue, particularly on small plantings. Netting or scaring devices are
two options to consider.
Which blueberry type or variety to plant is a fundamental issue. This is
largely dictated by location, with northern highbush adapted to the upper South
and northward, rabbiteyes from the mid-South and southward and southern highbush
from the upper South and southward. A description of Arkansas varieties and
their characteristics follows.
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