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Blueberry

What is...

murtilo kalThe Blueberry is a perennial, deciduous shrub with a wooden trunk. Its height can reach up to 2.5 meters, which makes it easy to harvest the fruit both by hand and mechanical.
The plant belongs to the  Ericaceae family. The plant genus is Vaccinium and worldwide are cultivated dozens of species depending on the region, the needs in cold and the use of the fruit. In Greece the last years efforts have been made to introduce the Blueberry cultivation but the special requirements of soils, water and climate conditions do not help spreading.
It is a plant, which fruits has huge, global, commercial importance due to its quality and beneficial features.

How do I select the crop...

For the choice of  Blueberry cultivation is necessary and obligatory the former control of the suitability of soil and water with which to irrigated farming and of course the study of climatic conditions in the region where the plantation is.

Therefore, the first thing that must be done before starting work in the field is the analysis of the soil. More specifically, you will need to take soil samples from random points of the field (3-5) and two levels of depth (0-30 cm and 30-60 cm). In the end, shuffle the surface samples and take a sample of surface soil and also all the sample depth and take a soil sample from 30-60 cm. The samples must send in soil laboratories that conduct tests for:

  • PH
  • Mechanical texture
  • Content of total and active CaCO3
  • Organic matter content

It can grow in acidic sandy and average composition soils that do not keep water. It is moderately demanding in nutrients, but requires high rates of organic matter while needs constant monitoring of soil moisture. It grows best in sunny areas, but probably the shading system installation in areas with high temperatures and exposure to solar radiation benefits farming.

The second important element is the chilling hours. Plants require cold winters to be able to give satisfactory production and quality fruit (just like it does with the fruit trees grown in Greece).  Chilling hours of an area are calculated very easily, for the period from 1 November to 28 February with the simple formula below.

  • For every hour of the day when the temperature is below 0oC is recorded no chilling hour.
  • For every hour of the day that the temperature is 0oC to 2,5oC is recorded 1/2 chilling hour.
  • For every hour of the day that the temperature is 2,5oC to 5oC is recorded 1 chilling hour.
  • For every hour of the day that the temperature is 5oC to 7oC is recorded ½ chilling hour.
  • For every hour of the day that the temperature is above 7oC is recorded no chilling hour.
  • For every hour of the day that the temperature is more than 15oC removed 1 chilling hour. (Chilling hours, Texas A & M University Agricultural Research & Extension Center at Overton).

Blueberry needs at least 150 chilling hours for southern varieties and 800-1000 chilling hours for northern varieties.

Planting tasks...

Planting, where the soil, water and climate is suitable for the cultivation of the plant can be done in autumn or early spring. The tasks for the correct installation of the plantation is:

1. Tillage and incorporation of organic fertilizer acid reaction, but also ground improvements if required (e.g. peat).

2. Etching planting lines and planting positions on the lines. The appropriate planting distances (accepted by scientific cooperative group) for the Blueberry is:

  • 0.8 meters distances between plants on line and 2.5 meters distances between lines in most dense planting. 500 plants per hectare.
  • 1.2 meters distance between plants on line and 3.5 meters distance between lines in the most sparse of planting. 238 plants per hectare.
  • All the various combinations of distances between these types of plantings.
  • The most common planting suggested is 1 meter distance between plants   onto the line and 3 meters distance between lines . 333 plants per hectare.

Open planting holes

1. Add biological preparations for plant protection and the better growth of the roots of the plant.

2. Planting. Take care during planting to avoid damaging the ball of soil of the plant.

Cultivation practices...

The Blueberry plant after four years of intensive cultivation on a large scale and a review of international literature indicates that:
It is a plant which has special requirements for water. On the one hand had no resistant to water shortage conditions and on the other hand finds it difficult when there is excess water in the soil. Achieving the excellent point is accomblished by continuous monitoring and measurement of soil moisture.

Each variety of Blueberry has a different resistance to natural enemies, so selecting the right varieties is of great importance.

Weeding is required with attention to fight weeds around the root of the plant, because it does not allowed to injure the root system. The use of mechanical means for plowing should be handled with care and away from the superficial root system as the destruction leads to wilting of the plant.

Application of preventive measures compatible with organic farming.

Harvest the fruit by hand or mechanically over a period of 12 weeks (1 or 2 repetitions) depending on the mixture of varieties selected.
Required winter pruning of literacy of the plant the first three years after planting. Usually the plant is shaped to cup or in cylindrical shape.
Indicative yields of the plant depending on the age of purchase and installation are shown in the table below.

Plant Size

Yield (kg)

Year 1st

Year 2the

3rd year

Year 4.

Year 5.

Year 6.

3-7 cm

0

0.225

0.450

1-2

2-4

4-6

15-25 cm

0

0.450

1

2

4-6

6-8

25-45 cm

0

1

2

4

4-6

6-8

38-60 cm

0

1.5-2

2-3

4-6

6-8

6-8

60-75 cm

0

1.5-2

3-4

4-6

6-8

6-8

3-7 cm: Age 3-4 months

15-25cm: Age 6-12 months

25-45cm: Age 12-18 months

38-60cm: Age 24 months

60-75cm: Age 36 months

Source: Hartmann nursery

Ways of marketing...

This fruit is imported and marketed either as fresh or as frozen in the European market from the countries of Latin America. Today the most known form of marketing worldwide is as jam, product that has been awarded many times due to its flavor. Also, the fruit is also available as a dried fruit in nut shops and health food shops. Finally, the leaves of Blueberry trading in dried form for the manufacture of beverages. It is the "secret" of wine "PORTO" and the flavor in the most important trade jams.

It is worth mentioning that organic fruit produced in the EU there is not exist at the moment on the international markets.

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Blueberry