Drip Irrigation Configuration Influences Growth in Young Highbush Blueberries

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  • 1 USDA ARS, Horticultural Crops Research Unit, Corvallis, OR, 97330

A study was done to determine the effects of irrigation with different drip configurations on growth of newly planted highbush blueberries (Vaccinium corymbosum L. `Duke'). Plants were grown on raised beds mulched with sawdust. Different configurations included two laterals of drip tubing placed on the soil surface on each side of the plants, two laterals buried 0.1 m deep on each side of the plants, and one lateral suspended 1.2 m above the plants. Each treatment was irrigated three times per week (when needed) with enough water to replace 100% of the estimated crop evapotranspiration requirements. During the first 2 years after planting, plants irrigated by buried drip were larger and produced significantly more whips than those irrigated by drip placed at the soil surface. The size and whip number of those irrigated by suspended drip were intermediate. Subsurface drip eliminated water runoff and bed erosion observed with both surface drip configurations. It also maintained lower soil water content near the plant crown. Since plants tested positive for phytophthora and pythium root rot, lower soil water content may have reduced problems with the disease. As plants mature, the next objective will be to determine the effects of each drip configuration on fruit production.

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