Overview Blueberry Production Practices in Florida Jeff Williamson Horticultural Sciences Department IFAS, University of Florida
Cost of Establishment • Land Preparation $1500 • Pine bark (450 yd3) $4500 • Plant costs (1800/a) $4500 • Overhead irrigation $4750 • Labor (2 ½ years) $3000 • Chemicals $ 500 • Total establishment costs $18,750
Planting Establishment • Soil test • Water test • Eliminate difficult to control weeds (brambles, nut sedge, smilax) • Drainage • Pine bark • Irrigation system
Construction of a trench revealed that very few roots were located in the underlying soil.
Root systems are easily separated from underlying soil by pulling back the pine bark layer.
Pine Bark Culture • New bark must be applied to fields every 3 to 4 years.
Pine bark incorporated culture • Grower trials and UF studies are underway to evaluate alternatives to pine bark culture.
Single rows are most common • Plant spacing is about 2.5 to 3.0 feet in the row. • Between row spacing is typically about 8 feet.
Double row beds • Once popular are now becoming less common.
3-row beds • 3-row beds are rare. They increase plant densities but complicate harvesting, spraying and other cultural practices.
Blueberry Pollination • Alternating rows of different varieties provide good cross-pollination.
Blueberry Pollination • All blueberry varieties benefit from cross-pollination. Bumble bees are the most efficient pollinators.
Cultivar Improvement • Sharpblue and Misty were the most widely planted cultivars until newer, improved, cultivars were released during the 1990’s and 2000’s.
Cultivar Improvement • Cultivar Selection • Newer cultivars like Jewel, Emerald, and Star have improved quality, increased yield, and advanced harvest date.
Freeze Protection • Freezes are the primary yield limiting factor for Florida blueberries. • Most blueberry use water for freeze protection.
Conclusions • Blueberries are very expensive to grow in Florida. • Knowledge and labor requirements are high. • Improved cultivars and cultural practices have resulted in consistent annual production. • Florida’s blueberry has steadily increased in acreage, value, and production during the last 7 years. • Prices have remained high despite increased production. • Many new plantings indicate continued growth for the immediate future. • Prices will likely decline as supply continues to increase during Florida’s market window. Small growers may be forced out of business. • Other production regions may eventually encroach on Florida’s market window.
Thank You • For more information visit the Small Farms web at http://smallfarms.ifas.ufl.edu • Take a virtual field day tour by visiting the Virtual Field Day web at http://vfd.ifas.ufl.edu This presentation brought to you by the Small Farms/Alternative Enterprises Focus Team.