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Open access

Fan-Hsuan Yang, Lisa W. DeVetter, Bernadine C. Strik, and David R. Bryla

Accumulation of calcium (Ca) in fruit is largely caused by transpiration and varies depending on the concentration of Ca in the xylem fluid. The objective of the present study was to evaluate the relationship between fruit stomatal functioning and Ca accumulation during different stages of development in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.). Stomata were scarce on the berries and were concentrated primarily on the distal end near the calyx. The density of the stomata was greatest at petal fall, averaging 5 to 108 stomata/mm2 from the proximal end (pedicel end) to the distal end of the berries. Stomata were wide-open at the early green stage of berry development and had a slight deposit of wax along the guard cells. As the berries expanded during the initial period of rapid growth (stage I), most of the stomata remained near the distal segment of the berries; by the late green stage, almost none was found in the middle and proximal segments. The majority of these stomata were completely covered with wax when the berries began to change color and ripen (stage II and stage III). Stomatal conductance (g S) of the berries averaged 45 mmol·m−2·s−1 at petal fall and rapidly declined as the fruit developed. By the fruit coloring stage, conductance was low and remained less than 15 mmol·m−2·s−1 throughout the ripening period. In four cultivars, including Duke, Bluecrop, Aurora, and Elliott, Ca uptake in the berries increased rapidly during the early green stage; however, it slowed considerably between the late green and fruit coloring stages and stopped completely during fruit ripening. The results of this study strongly suggested that practices used to increase the Ca content of blueberries, such as the application of foliar fertilizers, should be performed early in the season during the first few weeks after flowering.

Open access

Patrick H. Kingston, Carolyn F. Scagel, David R. Bryla, and Bernadine C. Strik

Peat and coir are commonly used for substrate production of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium sp.). Perlite is also typically added to improve drainage and stability of the media. The purpose of the present study was to determine how various combinations of each affect growth and nutrition in highbush blueberry. Two cultivars, ‘Liberty’ northern highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum L.) and ‘Jewel’ southern highbush blueberry (interspecific hybrid of V. corymbosum L. and V. darrowii Camp.), were grown for 3 months in media containing 0%, 10%, 20%, or 30% perlite, by volume, and a 1:0, 2:1, 1:2, or 0:1 ratio of peat and coir. At 95 days after transplanting, total dry weight of the ‘Liberty’ plants was greatest in pure peat and progressively less as more coir or perlite was added to the media. Total dry weight of ‘Jewel’ also declined with increasing amounts of perlite but, in this case, was unaffected by the ratio of peat and coir. The response of the plants to perlite did not appear to be a function of pH or nutrition and was most likely related to the effects of perlite on media water relations. Response to peat and coir, on the other hand, may have been due to nutrition and salinity of the media. In both cultivars, a higher amount of peat in the media improved uptake of N, P, Mg, and S and decreased uptake of K, B, Zn, and Na. Coir, on the other hand, contained higher concentrations of Na and Cl than peat. These findings suggest that the use of high amounts of perlite in the media could be detrimental when growing highbush blueberry in substrate, and some cultivars may grow better in peat than in coir.

Open access

Fan-Hsuan Yang, David R. Bryla, Scott T. Orr, Bernadine C. Strik, and Yanyun Zhao

Hot and sunny weather can cause a considerable amount of fruit damage in northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) and result in millions of dollars of crop loss each year. To combat this issue, many growers use over-canopy sprinkler or microsprinkler systems to cool the fruit, but questions remain on the amount of time and frequency these systems should be run and whether they have any effect on fruit quality. Two series of studies were conducted to evaluate the efficacy of using sprinklers or microsprinklers for reducing blueberry fruit temperature and improving fruit quality in western Oregon. With sprinklers, treatments were applied in 2014 and 2015 to ‘Elliott’ blueberry and included irrigation (night) and cooling (day) with sprinklers, sprinkler irrigation (at night only) with no cooling, and drip irrigation with no cooling. The sprinklers were run for cooling for 15 minutes every hour whenever air temperature was ≥32 or 35 °C. Berry temperature declined rapidly within the first 15 minutes of cooling and never exceeded ambient air temperature during the cooling cycles. While the percentage of fruit with heat damage was low even without cooling (<2%), cooling reduced damage to nearly 0% in 1 of 2 years and increased berry weight relative to no cooling in both years when it was run at ≥32 °C. Cooling also reduced the concentration of soluble solids (sugars) in the berries in 2014 but had no effect on yield, fruit firmness, titratable acidity, harvest date, or the total content of phenolics or anthocyanins in the berries in either year. With microsprinklers, cooling was tested at a commercial farm and at an experimental site. At the farm, 1.3-ha blocks of ‘Aurora’ blueberry were irrigated by drip and either had no cooling or were cooled using microsprinklers run continuously or pulsed in 1-hour or 20-minute cycles during three extreme heat events (≥35 °C) in 2015. Continuous cooling was the most effective treatment for reducing berry temperature, but it resulted in wetter conditions, which might impede fruit harvest afterward and increase the presence of slugs, insect pests, and fungal diseases. Pulsed cooling, especially with short cycles, effectively maintained fruit temperatures near that of ambient air and reduced water use by 50%. At the experimental site, cooling with microsprinklers, which in this case were pulsed in 20-min cycles when air temperature was ≥ 32 °C, reduced heat damage in ‘Aurora’ and ‘Elliott’ in 2016. Cooling at this site also increased berry weight by an average of 10% in both cultivars and increased fruit firmness by 32% during the first of three harvests in ‘Aurora’; however, it reduced the concentration of soluble solids in the berries in both cultivars. In general, cooling with microsprinklers used considerably less water than cooling with sprinklers, but it appeared to be equally effective at reducing berry temperature.

Open access

Bernadine C. Strik, Amanda J. Davis, David R. Bryla, and Scott T. Orr

A 2-year trial was established in Oct. 2016 in western Oregon to evaluate the effects of various in-row mulch treatments on the establishment of northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L. ‘Duke’). The treatments included douglas fir [Pseudotsuga menziesii (Mirb.) Franco] sawdust, black weed mat (woven polypropylene groundcover), green weed mat, and sawdust covered with black or green weed mat. Soil temperature was unaffected by the color of the weed mat, but it was often higher during the day in beds with weed mat mulch than in those with sawdust alone or sawdust covered with weed mat. Black or green weed mat also resulted in higher canopy temperatures, particularly when sawdust was underneath the weed mat. Plant growth was mainly unaffected by the color of the weed mat, and the maximum depth of the root system was similar among the mulch treatments. However, plants grown with sawdust mulch, with or without weed mat, had a greater canopy width and volume in year 2, a wider root system in both years, and more dry weight (DW) in the crown in year 1 and in the whips in year 2 than those with weed mat alone. Furthermore, plants with weed mat over sawdust were taller in year 1 and had greater canopy cover and more DW in new wood in year 2 than those with sawdust alone, and they had a larger canopy, more root development, and greater DW in the crown, new and old wood, fruit, and pruning wood in one or both years than those with weed mat alone. Over the course of the 2 years of the study, the net gain in total plant DW was lowest when the plants were grown with black weed mat and highest when they were grown with black weed mat over sawdust. Although it was more expensive initially, the use of weed mat over sawdust resulted in more plant growth than weed mat alone due to the insulating properties of the sawdust, and it was more effective for weed control than using sawdust alone.

Full access

Ryan C. Costello, Dan M. Sullivan, David R. Bryla, Bernadine C. Strik, and James S. Owen

New markets for organic northern highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) have stimulated interest in using composts specifically tailored to the plant’s edaphic requirements. Because composts are typically neutral to alkaline in pH (pH 7 to 8), and blueberry requires acidic soil (pH 4.2 to 5.5), we investigated elemental sulfur (S0) addition as a methodology for reducing compost pH. The objectives were to 1) characterize initial compost chemistry, including the pH buffering capacity of compost (acidity required to reduce pH to 5.0), 2) measure changes in compost chemistry accompanying acidification, and 3) evaluate plant growth and mineral nutrition of blueberry in soil amended with an untreated or acidified compost. Ten composts prepared from diverse feedstocks were obtained from municipalities and farms. Addition of finely ground S0 reduced compost pH from 7.2 to 5.3, on average, after 70 d at 22 °C, and increased the solubility of nutrients, including K (from 22 to 36 mmol(+)/L), Ca (from 5 to 19 mmol(+)/L), Mg (from 5 to 20 mmol(+)/L), and Na (from 6 to 9 mmol(+)/L). Sulfate-S, a product of S0 oxidation, also increased from 5 to 45 mmol(−)/L. The composts were incorporated into soil at a high rate (30% v/v) in a greenhouse trial to evaluate their suitability for use in blueberry production. Shoot and root growth were strongly affected by compost chemical characteristics, including pH and electrical conductivity (EC). Potassium in compost was highly variable (2–32 g·kg−1). Concentration of K in the leaves increased positively in response to compost K, whereas shoot dry weight and root growth declined. Leaf Mg also declined in response to compost K, suggesting that elevated K concentrations in compost may cause Mg deficiency. Composts with the highest K were also high in total N, pH, and EC. Compost acidification to pH ≤ 6 improved growth and increased leaf Mg concentration. On the basis of these results, composts derived from animal manures or young plant tissues (e.g., green leaves) appear to be unsuitable for high-rate applications to blueberry because they usually require high amounts of S0 for acidification and are often high in EC and K, whereas those derived from woody materials, such as local yard debris, appear promising based on their C:N ratio, compost acidification requirement, and EC.

Open access

Bryan K. Sales, David R. Bryla, Kristin M. Trippe, Jerry E. Weiland, Carolyn F. Scagel, Bernadine C. Strik, and Dan M. Sullivan

Biochar, a carbon-rich, fine-grained residue obtained from pyrolysis of biomass, is known to improve soil conditions and to suppress infection by soilborne pathogens. However, its use as a soil amendment has received relatively little attention by the horticulture industry. Two 12-week experiments were conducted in a greenhouse to determine the potential of using biochar, produced from mixed conifers during conversion of wood to energy, as a soil amendment for highbush blueberry (Vaccinium hybrid ‘Legacy’). Plants in the first experiment were fertilized once a week with a complete fertilizer solution, whereas those the in the second experiment were fertilized once a month with a solution of ammonium sulfate. In both cases, the plants received the same amount of N in total and were grown in pots filled with unamended soil (sandy loam) or soil amended at rates of 10% or 20%, by volume, with biochar or a 4:1 mix of biochar and bokashi (biochar-bokashi). The bokashi was produced from fermented rice (Oryza sativa L.) bran and was added to increase nutrients in the amendment. Half of the plants in each soil treatment were inoculated with Phytophthora cinnamomi Rands, which causes root rot in blueberry. Although pH of the raw biochar was high (8.5), soil pH averaged 4.5 to 5.5 in each treatment. In the absence of P. cinnamomi, plants grown with 20% biochar or 10% or 20% biochar-bokashi had greater leaf area and 30% to 70% more total dry weight than those grown with 10% biochar or in unamended soil. Biochar also improved soil aggregation and increased root colonization by ericoid mycorrhizal fungi. The percentage of roots colonized by mycorrhizal fungi was 54% to 94% in plants grown with the amendments, but was ≤10% in those grown in unamended soil. Plants inoculated with P. cinnamomi were stunted and showed typical symptoms of root rot. Root infection by the pathogen was unaffected by biochar or biochar-bokashi and negated any growth benefits of the amendments. Overall, amending soil with biochar appears to be a promising means of promoting plant growth and mycorrhizal colonization in blueberry, but it may not suppress phytophthora root rot.