Nitrogen Rate Response on `Cape Fear' Southern Highbush Blueberry

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  • 1 University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, AR 72701

The southern highbush blueberry is a hybrid of Vaccinium corymbosum L. and one or more southern-adapted Vaccinium species. The southern highbush is advantageous to blueberry growers in the South since its fruit ripen 1 to 4 weeks in advance of traditional rabbiteye (V. ashei Reade) cultivars. Only limited research has been done on cultural aspects of southern highbush production. The objective of this study was to determine the optimum nitrogen rate for the southern highbush blueberry. A planting of pine straw-mulched `Cape Fear' blueberry was established in 1994 at the Southwest Research and Extension Center, Hope, Ark. Nitrogen rate treatments (0, 67, 134, 202, 269 kg·ha-1 N) were applied annually over a 3-year period (1997-99) with urea as the N source. Soil samples were taken prior to N fertilization to determine if N applied the previous year influenced current soil analysis values. Foliar elemental composition, fruit yield and individual berry weight were also determined for each treatment. Soil analysis indicated that the carryover effect of N applications from previous years was minimal. However, a possible decline in soil pH, Ca, and Mg over time at the higher N rates indicated that these variables should be closely monitored. No consistent relationship was evident between N application rate and soil nitrate. Nitrogen application rate did not have any consistent impact on yield, berry weight or foliar elemental composition. However, based on foliar N, the data indicate that N rates of 67-134 kg·ha-1 N are adequate for southern highbush in mulched culture.

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