Foliar Applications of Calcium and Boron Do Not Increase Fruit Set or Yield in Northern Highbush Blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)

in HortScience

Fruit set in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) can be low under certain climatic conditions, contributing to reduced yields in northwestern Washington. The mechanisms influencing fruit set are complex, but reduced fruit set may be associated with inadequate nutrient availability during critical stages of flowering, ovule fertilization, and initial fruit development. Calcium (Ca) and boron (B) are of particular interest for reproductive developmental processes and are frequently applied annually by growers in the Pacific Northwest region because of the perception that these nutrients enhance fruit set and corresponding yields. Evaluation of commonly applied products containing these nutrients and their effects on fruit set and yield are of specific importance to justify the application of these nutrients. To address this, commercially available fertilizers containing Ca and B were applied to ‘Draper’ and ‘Bluecrop’ blueberry as foliar sprays, either alone or in combination, during the 2015 and 2016 growing seasons in northwestern Washington. Treatments included calcium chloride (750 and 1500 ppm Ca), calcium sulfate (150 ppm Ca), and tetra borate (125 and 250 ppm B) foliar sprays, repeated six times per season every 7–10 days from early pink bud through petal fall. No significant increases were observed for fruit set, estimated yield, and fruit quality (firmness and berry weight) across the treatments. Increased concentrations of B were observed in leaf tissues in 2015 and 2016, and to a lesser extent fruit tissues. Calcium remained unchanged regardless of treatment and tissue type. Under the conditions of this study, foliar applications of Ca and B did not lead to increased fruit set or yield. This research suggests that other approaches should be explored to increase fruit set and corresponding yields of highbush blueberry grown in northwest Washington.

Contributor Notes

This work was funded by the Washington Blueberry Commission.

We would like to acknowledge the assistance of our grower collaborators and Sean Watkinson, Rachel Rudolph, and Carter DeGraw for project assistance.

Graduate Research Assistant.

Assistant Professor.

Corresponding author. E-mail: lisa.devetter@wsu.edu.

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