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  • Author or Editor: Danny Stanaland x
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Rabbiteye blueberry (Vaccinium ashei) is the most important type of blueberry grown in Georgia. This species is classified as a highbush blueberry type, but is distinctively different from highbush blueberry (V. corymbosum) in its ability to withstand high temperatures and low-organic–matter soils. However, rabbiteye blueberries, like other fruit crops, are subject to price and yield fluctuation. These volatilities depend on several factors, including the cultivar produced and sold, locality, aggregate productivity, targeted market, and timing. As a result, profit margin is hard to determine. The objective of this study was to estimate economic returns using risk-rated budget analysis for rabbiteye blueberry under Georgia conditions. The first-year establishment and maintenance cost of growing rabbiteye blueberry in Georgia was estimated at $5022.04/acre. Total harvesting and marketing cost in the second year was $719.44/acre. In the third year, total variable and fixed cost was $3487.50/acre. In the full production year (fourth year), the cost was estimated at $4671.17/acre. The compounded and recaptured establishment annual cost was $2736.11/acre. The risk-rated expected returns over total costs 63% of the time were $679.00/acre. The chances of making a profit were 77% and the base budgeted net revenue was $369.00/acre. The total budgeted cost was $0.94/lb. The estimated annual total fixed machinery cost was $698.00/acre. The total annual cost of drip irrigation was $161.15/acre.

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Georgia has an excellent window for organic blueberry production since much of the crop ripens ahead of production in the northern U.S. Major challenges facing Georgia organic blueberry growers are weed control, organic fertilization, insect control and disease control. A team of Georgia growers, extension agents and scientists are working together to solve these production problems. Since 2002 a series of experiments have been conducted on blueberry establishment and maintenance. Various mulch materials were tested. On young plants, pine straw produced the highest yields, but pine bark and landscape fabric were also successful. With the pine straw treatment, a respectable yield of 0.97 kg/plant occurred 24 months after planting. In addition, a bed shaper–plastic mulch layer was modified by developing a removable center. Using this system, beds are formed, plants are mechanically transplanted, plants are pruned to 75 mm, and plastic is then pulled over the stem. This produces a fairly tight fit around the stem and a nearly weed free system except for weeds growing from the edges. On mature plants, pine bark and wheat straw were tested. Wheat straw produced excellent weed control and improved blueberry growth in year one and two. However, pine bark mulch provided the best weed control in year three. Various organic burn down compounds such as vinegar, Xpress, Alldown, and Matran 2 were tested for winter weed control efficacy. In these trials Matran 2 was the most effective, and the product also performed well on woody weeds that were winter pruned, allowed to resprout and then treated. A propane torch was also tested, but discarded because of the fire hazard. Entrust insecticide was tested for thrips control and gibberellic acid for fruit set. Thrips populations were low, so no effect on fruit set was noted from Entrust. Gibberellic acid significantly improved fruit set.

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